Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Climate Change: The wrong direction

Today the government released its "action plan" for the next three months - basically, the list of what it wants to get done. Yes, its government by KPI, with all the bullshit that that entails. But contempt for management culture aside, what about the substance? And in particular, the substance around Aotearoa's largest policy challenge, climate change?

Well, its bad. Here are Luxon's "action points" which are related to climate change:

  • Finalise the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport, freezing fuel tax until the end of 2026 and delivering significant investment for transport.
  • Take decisions on measures to increase investment in renewable electricity generation.
  • Finalise policy to keep agriculture out of the ETS.
  • Commence an independent review of the methane science and targets for consistency with no additional warming from agricultural methane emissions.
  • Take decisions on the removal of the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration.
  • Commission a study into New Zealand's fuel security, including investigating the feasibility of reopening the Marsden Point Oil Refinery.

Of these, only one - the one on renewable energy - could be remotely said to be positive, and its focusing on the area of least concern. In 2022 electricity generation produced 4.4 million tons of CO2 - just 5.7% of the total. While everything helps, the sector is generally headed towards the elimination of fossil fuels by 2030, and there are much bigger policy fish to fry.

What are those policy fish? Transport and agriculture. And on both of those, the KPIs are unequivocally bad, promising more roads and less public transport (so, higher emissions), a continued free ride for our biggest climate polluters in the dairy industry, and the adoption of explicitly climate denier targets for methane, the greenhouse gas we should be cutting as a priority to reduce heating. And as for the rest, there's nostalgia for the dirty fossil industries for the past.

These are the KPIs of a government which is still in deep denial about the climate crisis and its impacts, a government which seems to want to make it worse. And when we're talking about a crisis which threatens to kill a billion people, that makes them murderous ecocidaires, who should be sent for trial in The Hague.

So what should the government's climate KPIs be? Just off the top of my head:

  • Immediately bringing agriculture into the ETS, with no subsidies, so farmers pay the full cost of the destruction they are causing;
  • Cutting the size of the dairy herd by 50% using regulation and the NAIT database, to immediately reduce methane emissions;
  • Massive investments in public transport to get people out of cars, and transport electrification to reduce the emissions of those who still drive;
  • Cutting all industrial free allocation from the ETS, so polluters pay their way;
  • Funnelling ETS revenue (such as it is) into the GIDI scheme to decarbonise and electrify industrial emitters;
  • Shutting down or cleaning up Methanex's polluting methanol plants;
  • Sunsetting all fossil fuel mining and exploration permits, and regulating the fossil gas industry out of existence.

This is what we need to do if we are to survive the next century. National's refusal to even think about shows that they'd rather kill us all than allow change.