Monday, November 17, 2014

Climate change: King of denial

John Key is desperately trying to defend the dairy industry's climate change record:

The Prime Minister has defended the New Zealand dairy industry's record on climate change issues in the wake of a landmark agreement between the world's biggest two polluters.


Mr Key said methane and nitrous oxide from pastoral agriculture were major contributors to New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions.

"If the behaviour you're trying to change is something you have no answer for and the farmer can't control - the methane and nitrate emissions from the animal - then aren't you just really putting a tax on them for the sake of it?" Mr Key said this morning.

Except they can do something about it. We have farming methods which reduce emissions, and we always have the fallback of reducing herd sizes (which probably needs to happen for water quality reasons anyway). The problem isn't that farmers can't adopt these methods, but that they do not want to. And the consequence of indulging them isn't just that they continue to pollute our atmosphere, but also that the rest of us effectively subsidise them by paying for it.

We should not be subsidising farmers like this. It violates "polluter pays", and it violates basic principles of social equity for the poor to subsidise the rich like this. Instead, farmers should pay their own way. And with carbon prices at a low due to the slowness of international climate change talks, now is the perfect time to internalise that cost and make them stand on their own two feet.