Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Climate Change: A history lesson

Why is New Zealand climate change policy so crap? The Herald this morning has a long article on the twists and turns of climate change policy in New Zealand [paywalled / depaywall script], which shows where we've been. The short version is that the government first began worrying about this way back in 1988, and then basicly did nothing for twenty years until it passed the ETS. Why did it do nothing, and let emissions grow and grow and grow? While the Herald glosses over the middle bit, the blame can squarely be sheeted home to these clowns:
[National MPs with cow at anti-climate change policy protest, September 2003. Image stolen from Stuff]

National was in government during the crucial period in the 1990's when we'd become aware of the threat. So what did they do about it? First, they set an ambitious target of a 20% reduction in emissions by 2000, but of course they imposed no policies to make it happen, and actively worked to prevent the RMA from being used to control emissions. They threatened business with a carbon tax if they didn't start reducing emissions by 1997, but (of course) didn't follow through. They then worked up a full plan for an emissions trading scheme, which was supposed to be imposed in 1999 - but didn't follow through on that. And they lost power, and suddenly went full Denier, opposing any efforts to price emissions (a policy they had supported in government), or even to make farmers contribute to the cost of the research required to let them reduce agricultural methane. Possibly this was just them revealing their true colours, or possibly it was just the usual hypocrisy and opportunism of opposition politics in our political system. But either way, it limited the government's scope for action, and delayed the ETS by another five years. And then, when it finally passed in 2008, the first thing National did when elected to power was gut it.

With this background, the idea that National should be taken seriously as a "partner" with whom the government should seek consensus on climate change is ludicrous. There's no good faith there, no commitment to action. Instead - and it is quite clear from their public statements on the issue - the only consensus they will support is one for inaction, for not doing enough, for failure. And a consensus for failure is simply not worth pursuing, even if you are stupid enough to think they'll stick to it.