Friday, June 04, 2021

Climate Change: Dereliction of duty

Before the pandemic, air travel was one of the fastest growing causes of greenhouse gas emissions. Fully half of those emissions are caused by a global elite of super-emitting frequent flyers, so the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's proposal in February to discourage it with distance-related departue taxes seems like an excellent idea. But Tourism Minister Stuart Nash seems to have killed the idea. Why? Apparently, its just all too hard:

The MBIE briefing, sent the day before Upton’s report was made public, said such a departure tax might be difficult to apply given how many international visitors transit through Australia. “Therefore a majority of this tax would be single tier and fail to fully account for the distance travelled to international visitor’s [sic] end destinations.

“MBIE also acknowledges that it may be difficult to justify spending this departure tax revenue (which is collected by travellers departing New Zealand) on providing a source of climate finance for Pacific Nations, who may also choose to apply similar levies.”

Asked if the departure tax was under active consideration by the Tourism Minister or his Cabinet colleagues, Nash’s press secretary wrote: “I replied to an email from you about the PCE proposal on 4 March, i.e. the Minister of Tourism has publicly stated he is not a fan and that an international visitor levy (on arrivals) was already in place.”

As the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment notes, this is an exceptionally weak argument, and its not as if MBIE has any better ideas to deal with the problem. But then, perhaps the real problem is that they don't want to deal with it. Like NZPAM (also part of MBIE) and MPI, they've been captured by the industry they're meant to be regulating, and by their own self-interest. After all, if we have fewer tourists, we'd need fewer MBIE staff to handle them...

But what's really shocking in all this is that the departure tax - a climate change measure - was apparently never put before the Climate Change Minister, and he doesn't seem to think its his problem. It absolutely is. And while international aviation may be a small source of emissions compared to the big problems of cows and cars, it all adds up, and as the article notes, we need to be pulling every lever we have to reduce emissions. Ignoring this is simply dereliction of duty. And when the government has declared a climate emergency, that is simply not acceptable.