Friday, November 04, 2011

Climate change: National's record

What's National's record on climate change? A study [Paywalled] by University of Otago and VUW researchers published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today says it is dismal.

The study looks at five key areas of climate change policy: contributing to international action, giving price signals to markets, supporting domestic R&D, supportive regulation and policy development, and supportive infrastructure investment. The government response is assessed from its media statements and policy releases, and they tell a sorry tale. Since coming to power, National has failed to take the lead in pushing for international action on climate change (or indeed, shown any real commitment at all). They've gutted the ETS and signalled a further extension of pollution subsidies in future, making it clear that polluters won't pay. They've failed to fund R&D on renewable energy (and the new Ministry of Science and Innovation’s Statement of Intent doesn't even mention the term, or climate change). And they've failed to regulate to improve the energy efficiency of the housing stock or vehicle fleet. Only in infrastructure has there been good news, with some upgrades to public transport and a promise to fund broadband (which might make it easier for people to work from home) - and even that is undermined by their overwhelming focus on roads.

This is absolutely damning. Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our civilisation, and our government's response is a mixture of sticking their fingers in their ears and hoping it goes away (their international and domestic foot-dragging) and leaving it to the next generation to fix (their inadequate "50% by 2050" target). Given the costs of inaction, they must do better.