Friday, July 28, 2017

Climate change: Doing nothing

That's Herald columnist Brian Fallow's assessment of Paula Bennett's response to the ETS review:

Into the fog of uncertainty shrouding the future of the Emissions Trading Scheme, Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett has blown the gentlest of puffs.

Most of the long-awaited outcomes announced on Wednesday, flowing from the Government's review of the ETS, are decisions in principle, bereft of numbers and with vague timeframes about when essential implementation details will be forthcoming.

No changes to the demand side of the carbon market are proposed.

That means the majority of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions will continue to be exempt from a carbon price - in particular, the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from pastoral farming (nearly half the national total). That entrenches the de facto subsidy to farmers that gets capitalised into land prices, so that someone selling a farm gets a higher tax-free capital gain while the buyer gets a larger mortgage.

Fallow points out that under National's policy settings, 93% of our "carbon budget" for the 2020s - which we are expected to exceed by 37% - are already accounted for by free pollution credits and the agriculture subsidy. Which means there is simply no hope of meeting it. National's "plan" seems to be to hope to rejoin international carbon markets (from which we are banned due to refusing a binding Kyoto CP2 target), then buying fraudulent foreign credit again. But hope isn't a plan, especially when its hope of merely achieving technical compliance. If we want to actually deal with this problem, we need to actually reduce emissions. And that means adopting serious policies, rather than the current bullshit. It will mean making polluters, including the sacred dairy industry, pay the full cost of their pollution. Those industries will squeal and whine and lobby about that, and threaten to leave (to where? Everywhere is now covered by Paris), or to shut down (good). The government will need to resist such whining. Because it is now either them or us, and those industries need to clean their act up if we are to survive. And a government which sides with the polluters who are destroying the planet is betraying the people it is meant to serve.