Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Climate Change: A scam from start to finish

The He Waka Eke Noa report has finally been released, and it shows that the entire project was a scam from start to finish. The scam starts with the title, which translates as "we are all in this together". But the whole purpose of the policy is to ensure that farmers are not in this with the rest of us, to protect them from paying the full price of their pollution (unlike urban kiwis, who pay for every gram of CO2 we emit). "You will carry us" ("ma koutou matou e kawe" according to Google Translate) seems like it would be more accurate.

So what are the farmers proposing?

  • artificially low carbon prices, with subsidies continuing for a century;
  • levies set by a captured industry body to ensure they do not reflect actual ETS costs;
  • bullshit "offsets" which are not recognised under international carbon accounting rules, to give farmers "credit" for stuff that makes no difference or that they were doing anyway. To add insult to injury, these are overweighted, with 75% - 90% discount on offsets vs a 95% discount on pollution - meaning this bullshit"sequestration" counts for 2 - 5 times as much as pollution. The net effect is to ensure that no-one will pay anything anyway.
  • Enormous administration costs due to the need to calculate and verify all that bullshit, which massively outweigh revenue from the scheme for the first decade (so there will be no money for science for at least that long);
  • inbuilt predatory delay, via dependence on software which will not be ready by the 2025 implementation deadline.
  • more wishful thinking about technological magic bullets, when we need to cut emissions now.

This is not a good faith effort to come up with an appropriate emissions-pricing system. Instead it is just more of the usual: denial, delay, special pleading and demands for subsidies. The core mechanism is a levy per head of stock and per kg of fertiliser. But given the administration costs, it seems massively easier simply to price both via the ETS at the producer level. That also handles most of the "sequestration" options, like land conversion, reducing stock numbers, or using less fertiliser, and some of those that aren't (like urease inhibitors or methane flaring) seem like they could be handled efficiently with specific, direct-to-farmer payments with less administrative overhead. But then farmers wouldn't have the feeling of control - something they seem to be willing to waste $150 million on.

Meanwhile, the Climate Change Commission has also released its Advice on Agricultural Assistance, in which they shitcan HWEN's proposed price subsidy mechanism of low price and proportional discounts. They also find that the risk of "emissions leakage" in the agricultural sector is low, and that the only justification for such assistance is to avoid financial hardship. But bluntly, the purpose of a price-based mechanism is to force polluters out of business, and assistance undermines that. I want dirty farmers to go out of business. The assistance we should be providing is for changing land use or retraining so they can learn to do something better with their lives, not subsidising them to continue destroying the planet.

So, the upshot is that farmers have wasted two years of precious time on this bullshit, during which they have emitted another 80 million tons of pollution. And this after twenty years of procrastination and unchecked pollution. It is time we said "enough", and made them pay their way. Put them in the ETS, with no subsidies, and let the market take its course.