Monday, September 19, 2011

Climate change: Subsidising farmers

As expected, National has used its strapped-chicken ETS review to let farmers off the hook entirely for their pollution. This is wrong on so many levels. Farmers are our biggest polluters. Dairy-sector emissions are growing as fast as the transport sector. Excluding them will let those emissions continue to grow, while placing a greater burden on everyone else. And in the long-term, it means we will be unable to meet even National's weak "50% by 2050" target - because agricultural emissions are already more than 50% of our 1990 total.

Farmers already have the technology and management practices to reduce those emissions [PDF]. They would rather not use them, and instead reap higher profits by being dirty. And this dumps their costs on the rest of us. Assuming a carbon price of $20/ton, excluding farmers means an effective subsidy of ~$650 million a year. That's $650 million we won't be able to spend on education, on health, on lifting kids out of poverty. Instead, it will go straight into the pockets of our narrow rural elite.

The core principle of environmental policy should be "polluter pays". By insulating farmers from the true cost of their activities, National are turning that principle on its head. And its not as if they can't afford to pay - farmers are making record profits.

To put it bluntly, it is us or them. Either they pay, or we do. National will make you pay so farmers can keep driving BMWs. If you don't like that, vote accordingly in November.