Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Climate Change: Calling bullshit on He Waka Eke Noa

Last month, farmers released their proposal for emissions pricing, which was a scam from start to finish, packed with artificially low prices subsidised by the rest of us, bullshit "offsets" also subsidised by the rest of us, and predatory delay. Today, the Climate Commission released their assessment of the proposal, in the form of a statutory report on Progress towards agricultural emissions pricing. And while they're polite about it, they basicly call bullshit on the whole scam. The important takeaways:

  • Farmers are already breaking the promises they made to us about monitoring their emissions;
  • Years of predatory delay and farmer recalcitrance means they can't implement what they're proposing;
  • A lot of what they are proposing - in particular, the entire "offset" scheme - is bullshit anyway, since its neither real nor additional - not additional because its claiming credits for stuff that was already happening, and not real because the supposed "reductions" are not scientifically supported and so not recognised in our inventory. They do however suggest that the government could recognise some of it outside the emissions pricing system, e.g. by paying directly for biodiversity protection (which isn't a terrible idea);
  • The magic technology farmers are relying on to lower emissions without them having to change their practices isn't going to arrive any time soon, and will take time to be recognised in inventories anyway;
  • The 95% free allocation promised by the government is likely to result in significant overallocation, and needs to be ditched;
  • While they don't talk about subsidised emissions prices, they've basicly done a whole other report on that, which pans the idea;
  • The He Waka Eke Noa scheme is unfair to other New Zealanders.

So what do they recommend? Essentially, taking the He Waka Eke Noa proposal for farm-level pricing, and ripping out all the subsidies and bullshit - which will also make it much easier to implement. What this is likely to look like in practice initially is a per-animal levy, which in theory provides a direct incentive for more efficient production (and in practice provides an incentive for farmers to whine about being "taxed"). Offsets would be handled via the ETS, with the promise that if more stuff is internationally recognised then it will be incorporated (which is fair enough). As there's no emissions benefit in pricing fertiliser at the farm level, it should be bought into the ETS as quickly as possible at the producer level, with a much lower level of free allocation (the first bit is easy, as it is already provided for; the second bit will require a law change to tweak a definition or move fertiliser production to industrial activities, where it belongs).

So now we have a real test for the government: do they listen to the expert body they appointed to provide credible, neutral advice, or do they listen to whining farmers? While I'm hoping for the former, given Labour's other chickenshittery, it'll probably be the latter. In which case farmers need to be told firmly that whatever deal they think they've got will be renegotiated and unilaterally altered the moment the Greens have the leverage to do so.