Thursday, March 07, 2013

Climate change: Total policy failure

Writing in the Herald, Brian Rudman Fallow has a stark warning: thanks to poor decision-making by the government, we are heading for total policy failure. The core problem?

[T]he primary policy intended to curb the growth in emissions - and set us on the path to a low-carbon future - is in utter disarray.

The emissions trading scheme has been nullified by two rounds of watering down, including the fateful decision not to restrict, as others have, emitters' ability to use imported carbon credits to meet their obligations, even though world prices for carbon have crashed.

With emission reduction units trading for a few cents a tonne, the ETS provides no incentive to reduce emissions, or to plant trees to offset emissions.

It also means no incentive not to deforest - which is a big problem, given that deforestation (and preventing it) is one of our biggest short-term levers on emissions. So, we basically have no real way anymore of limiting domestic emissions.

Meanwhile thanks to our reluctance to be a good international citizen and sign up for Kyoto II, we've been locked out of international carbon markets. Which means we can't purchase emissions reductions internationally either. The upshot? Our provisional Kyoto-style "responsibility target" of a 10 to 20 percent cut on 1990 emissions is out of reach.

While National will try and blame it on "the previous Labour government", just like they do for everything else, this is a problem of their own making. National set the target. National watered down the ETS to the point of ineffectiveness. And National refused to sign us up for CP2. Their hostility to the environment, their latent climate change denial, and their grovelling to the US anti-Kyoto faction has created this failure. And our "100% Pure" brand and our mana-based foreign policy are both likely to be collateral damage.

The question now is what National is going to do about the mess they've made. What they need to do is tighten up the ETS and rejoin the international mainstream by signing up for CP2. Sadly, I suspect they'll just use this as an excuse to revert to form, go hard-denialist, and repudiate any action at all.

Correction: Yes, its Brian Fallow, not Brian Rudman. I plead lack of caffeine at the time.