Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Climate change: The fear of increased expectations

Yesterday was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year - and it had record high temperatures. People are reporting that spring flowers have already appeared, and outside, I have strawberries in the depths of winter. Meanwhile, Treasury has been worrying about the threat of "increased expectations" for action on climate change.

The revelation is from a 2015 Treasury aide memoire on what to do with our fraudulent Kyoto surplus. A version of the paper was released via FYI last year, but with significant redactions. The requester successfully challenged those redactions with the Ombudsman, resulting in the unredacted paper being released.

Treasury basicly said there were three options for the profits of our Kyoto fraud: sell them, use them to achieve a higher 2020 target, or voluntarily cancel them. Naturally, they supported selling them as "there is a legitimate right to do so and the units will otherwise become worthless when access to international markets closes". They opposed retaining them and using them for our 2020 target because it would "increase expectations for an even greater target after 2020", which would be expensive. If they weren't sold, then Treasury supported cancellation as it would "largely avoid the risk [sic] of increasing expectations for our targets after 2020".

So, the planet is burning down around our ears, and Treasury's chief worry is that we might expect them to actually take credible action to stop it. You really have to wonder what it would take for the message to get through to them.

In the end, the government decided to retain the laundered units, but set a low target - in other words, to use them as an excuse to keep on doing nothing. So Treasury won in a way - they convinced the National Party that there was no crisis and that they didn't really need to do anything. But the rest of us, we lost badly. And winter strawberries aren't much of a consolation for that.