Friday, February 03, 2023

Climate Change: The emissions deficit

In March last year, in a panic over rising petrol prices caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the government made a poor decision, "temporarily" cutting fuel excise tax by 25 cents a litre. Of course, it turned out not to be temporary at all, having been extended in May, July, December, and again this week. The fiscal cost of that decision is $718 million so far, and it will get higher since the cut is likely to be extended and extended until after the election. That comes straight out of the roading budget, which now has no money to pay for repairs caused by climate-change-induced storms. The emissions cost is roughly 400,000 tons (so far) and rising. Which will need to be paid back somehow with other cuts if we are to meet our carbon budget.

But that's not the only poor decision this government has made. In December, they massively increased pollution subsidies while also continuing price subsidies built into the ETS, in defiance of climate commission advice. The last change means that polluters will continue to enjoy an extra 7 million tons of pollution a year - nearly 10% of our gross national emissions. The kicker? The government is legally obliged to pay it all back. Section 30IA of the Climate Change Response Act 2002 requires the government to obtain greenhouse gas reductions to cover any excess units introduced into the system by pollution subsidies or ETS auction settings. Meaning the seven million tons they gave away last year, and the 7 million tons they plan to give away unnecessarily this year are going to need to be balanced by emissions cuts, soaked up with trees, or paid for with units purchased overseas (at a likely cost far in excess of the $150 / ton the government uses in its internal budgets). According to the first Newsroom article linked above, the government currently has no plan to do this. Climate Minister James Shaw "wants to have an intentional conversation with his Labour colleagues" about it, but on past performance, they'll laugh in his face, say "fuck your statutory obligations", and leave the problem for someone else to solve.

Heckuva job they're doing on the climate crisis, isn't it? Makes you think they're really earning their $296,007 salaries, right?

Meanwhile, this weeks Auckland floods show the reality of the crisis: going soft on polluters simply means that we all pay, not just financially, but in storms and floods and ruined homes and misery. It would be nice if the government learned that lesson, and started doing what is required.