Friday, October 25, 2019

Climate Change: Another history lesson

Yesterday the government introduced the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Bill, which (among other things) would change the rules around the phasedown of free industrial allocations. While it increases the phaseout rate - so it will now take 40 or 30 years for pollution subsidies to be eliminated - it also resets the baseline from which they are phased out to 2020, destroying the last 8 years of progress (and in fact it looks like the government will have to pay polluters the additional credits they didn't get under the old scheme). Perhaps for this reason the Minister was hardly effusive in his praise, merely saying that it phases down allocation "in a measured and predictable way". Its a slight improvement over National's free allocations, but only a slight one. And compared to the cuts we need to make, the lack of ambition is glaring. But its even worse if you have a memory longer than a goldfish.

Because the ETS didn't start with National in 2009. It was originally passed in the dying days of the Labour - NZ First government in 2008. The original version also included free allocation for "trade exposed" (whiny) industrial polluters. That allocation was not 90% of current pollution, but 90% of 2005 pollution. And it phased out not in 40 years, but in 22 - ten years of 90%, then a linear phase out over 12 years to 2030.

The kicker: Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons thought that phase-out was too slow:

The Greens have always assessed this bill against the two criteria of effectiveness and fairness. Both effectiveness and fairness were further compromised by the Prime Minister’s announcement in May that phase-out of free allocations would be delayed for a further 5 years, and the entry of transport by 2 years.

She also called the exemption of agriculture until 2013 and its allocation of free credits afterwards - like industrial allocations, phased out by 2030 - "a huge subsidy". I wonder what she thinks of James Shaw's sellout yesterday?

But one thing is clear looking at this history: as the urgency of the crisis has increased, the ambition of our politicians has gone the other way. Rather than rising to the challenge, they have simply given up, treated it as something to be negotiated and compromised with. But you cannot compromise with physics, and if allowed to continue, their lack of ambition will doom us all.