Thursday, May 30, 2019

A deckchairs budget

The government has formally released its budget today, highlighted as being all about wellbeing. There's some valuable initiatives in there, including almost $2 billion for mental health, a move to index benefits to wages rather than inflation, and a $1 billion investment in rail infrastructure. All of this is great. At the same time, there's something huge missing from the budget: climate change.

Oh, it got a mention in the speech as part of environmental measures, and there's some token funding: a few million to manage the ETS and keep the independent climate change commission running, $50 million for trees, and a token boost of ~$11 million to research spending on agricultural greenhouse gases. But there's no major policy announcements on how the government is going to deal with it, and no major new initiatives to reduce emissions.

Climate change is the most important problem facing New Zealand. The Prime Minister called fighting it "my generation's nuclear free moment". Its the only policy that matters, and next to it everything else is deckchairs on the Titanic. But that's what we got: deckchairs. No money for a major decarbonisation of our electricity system. No money for a major decarbonisation of our transport system. No money, in short, to stop us poisoning the planet.

Governments show what they value with money. Jacinda Ardern's government has shown what it values today, and it is not the future. It is not what the Prime Minister says she values. And when we have so little time left, that is a huge wasted opportunity to move us towards a more sustainable path.