The other side of the world

Imagine this: the country’s leading business organisation — noted for its robust espousal of free markets and business freedom — takes the government to task for not doing enough, fast enough to get emissions on a downward path. So it releases four roadmaps, for the power, industrial, energy and transport sectors designed to deliver emissions reductions of 30% by 2020 (overview here). Fantastic, eh? Sadly, it’s not happening here. The organisation in question is the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI told Business Green:

“Achieving all of this in the ambitious timeframe that has been set will require massive investment of private capital, much of it from abroad,” he said. “But this will only be forthcoming if there is certainty about the direction of government policy, a robust price for carbon, a clear planning and regulatory structure, the right regime for tax and intellectual property, and the skills that will be needed to bring all this new kit to market.”

The contrast with the situation in Godzone could not be more stark. A couple of months ago, Carbon News reported on a draft of Business NZ‘s submission to the ETS Review committee:

New Zealand needs to stop ETS implementation until the rest of the world decides what it is doing, avoiding imposing an emission prices ahead of the rest of the world

We have the most “punitive” ETS in the world (all sectors and all-gases)

The Government will raise more revenue than needed to meet the actual cost of paying for any excess emissions commitment under Kyoto

The ETS is “rushed” (even though it has now been nearly 15 years since the Kyoto commitment was made and nothing major, except the ETS, has been done in response)

Agriculture will suffer if the ETS covers that sector’s gases before others in the world do so.

Couple that with the nonsense contained in the Business Roundtable’s ETS Review submission, and a clear picture emerges. The core of the New Zealand business world just doesn’t understand the climate problem — or have any real ideas for dealing with it. There are good guys in the business world — most notably the Business Council for Sustainable Development — but they struggle to be heard amongst the cacophony from the big emitters and their representatives.

Time for our business leaders to start living in the real world, not in some fantasy where their actions have no consequences, climate change is someone else’s problem, and taxpayers pay all their bills. But I’m not holding my breath.

[KT Tunstall]

Tangled up in blue (first reprise)

Key.jpgThe government’s demolition of New Zealand’s climate policy is continuing apace. This week, as part of cost-cutting and restructuring at the Ministry for Environment, they have chopped the carbon neutral public service programme. This comes on top of Gerry Brownlee’s removal of the moratorium on new thermal generation, the curious case of the ETS scheme that’s on hold and yet being reintroduced at the same time, and prime minister John Key’s apparent lack of conviction about the severity of climate change. Commenting on the changes at MfE, environment minister Nick Smith offered these pearls of wisdom (Stuff):

“It’s not government policy that we should move to a carbon neutral public service. That was a cheap slogan from the previous government. I’ve heard awful stories of senior public servants … spending an hour on how they might reorganise their rubbish.”

Smith appears happy to decide policy based on hearsay. Not a good look for a senior politician. The carbon neutral public service (CNPS) scheme was never going to make a huge difference to New Zealand’s emissions, but it was a way for the apparatus of government to show that it was taking the problem seriously. By acting — and crucially, purchasing goods and services — with lower carbon emissions in mind, it was sending a useful economic signal into the world beyond Wellington. Take that signal away, and the message is all too clear. The Department of Conservation will also be left in the lurch, as a number of their trial native bush regeneration for carbon offset schemes were earmarked for the CNPS.

Another worrying sign is that Smith has appointed a former Business NZ climate policy analyst to his political team. According to Carbon News, George Riddell played a key role in developing Business NZ’s climate and emissions trading policy — which is currently to delay implementing the ETS to 2013.

Put all this together and you get a very clear impression of a government that does not have a real grasp of the danger of climate change, or the need to implement coherent climate policy. Worse, they give every impression of being in the pockets of the big emitters and big business interests. So far, all the new government has done is to pull down the climate policy of the last administration, but has given no hint of what it might put in its place.

It’s high time John Key and Nick Smith stopped playing politics and started taking this issue seriously. A coherent statement of their appreciation of the size of the problem and the policy levers they intend pulling might be a good place to start.

[KT Tunstall, and very good indeed…]

What have I Dunne to deserve this?

dunne.jpgPeter Dunne has been appointed chairman of the select committee being established to review climate policy, the Herald reports. Dunne, in an interview with Carbon News, indicated that he saw no reason to reconsider the science:

“The science is pretty clearly established,” Dunne said. “It’s somewhat ludicrous and arrogant to expect a New Zealand parliamentary committee to review the science which the IPCC, Stern (UK economist Lord Stern) and every notable committee in the world has adjudicated on.”

Today’s Parliamentary order paper lists the membership of the committee and the terms of reference [PDF]. Apart from Dunne, the 11 member committee consists of Craig Foss, Nicky Wagner, Dr Paul Hutchison, Hekia Parata, Rodney Hide, David Parker, Moana Mackey, Charles Chauvel, Jeanette Fitzsimons, and one member of the Māori Party. The full terms of reference are unchanged from ACT’s draft, with the exception of the science review — which has been dropped — and the terms set no time limit for the committee’s deliberations — though there have been indications that the report is expected by March.

Parker, Chauvel and Fitzsimons know this stuff inside out. It remains to be seen how the others perform. Nicky Wagner held an environment position under Don Brash, and flirted with scepticism at that time, but is now (she told me last year) happy to accept we need to act. It will be interesting to see how Rodney takes to being chaired by Dunne. Reaction from Don’t Be A Rodney here, while No Right Turn is resolutely sceptical, in the true sense of the word.

[Update 10/12: The order paper linked above omitted one particularly interesting new item in the terms of reference (see Government press release here):

– identify the central/benchmark projections which are being used as the motivation for international agreements to combat climate change; and consider the uncertainties and risks surrounding those projections

Rodney Hide seems hell bent on interpreting this as meaning he can have his crank fest. One hopes the rest of the committee will disagree. Meanwhile, a more rational interpretation of this item could lead to a very interesting discussion about targets – because the way I read it, “uncertainties and risks” could suggest the need for more stringent limits on emissions… 😉 ]

[Title reference]

Stop! In the name of ACT

NZETS.jpg The uncertainty created by the shelving of the current emissions trading scheme legislation is already having a significant impact on the New Zealand economy. Carbon News reports that one of the world’s leading players in the carbon market had planned to announce today that it was to open an NZ operation, but that as a result of the National/ACT deal, those plans have been put on hold. NZ’s international reputation in carbon markets is “taking a battering” according to TZ1 boss Mark Franklin, and the market for NZ emissions units (NZUs) is now “effectively dead”, CN reports.

The forestry sector is also feeling the impact of Key’s decision to cave in to Hide, with Roger Dickie of the Kyoto Forestry Association telling Morning Report yesterday that a major forestry project worth hundreds of millions of dollars has been cancelled as a result of the ETS decision (stream, mp3). Also worth a listen: Rod Oram on Nine To Noon today, assessing the new cabinet (stream, mp3). Nick Smith, the incoming minister with responisbility the environment and climate change portfolios apparently still believes (according to Oram) that a modified ETS can be up and running by 2010, but the “special” select committee process is going to make that very hard to achieve – especially if consideration of a carbon tax is included in the final terms of reference. Brian Fallow in the Herald believes an ETS is “most likely“, but in the meantime the uncertainty created by the new government is doing no-one except the big “do nothing” emitters any favours.

To avoid further damage to our international credibility, National should immediately issue revised terms of reference and a tight timetable for their “special” select committee: taking out all references to considering the science of climate change and the possibility of a carbon tax, and explicitly limit the committee to considering amendments to the ETS framework. To do less (or nothing) will do further damage to business in NZ and our international reputation.

[Title reference]

Roll up, sign up, save money

carbonnews.gifThanks to a brief encounter at last weekend’s Amberley A&P Show (I was in truffle mode, manning a table in the PGG Wrightson tent), Hot Topic is pleased to be able to offer registered readers an exclusive $200 saving on a one year subscription to Carbon News – the premium New Zealand-based carbon and climate news and analysis site. Carbon News is especially valuable for anyone working with the ETS and carbon trading, with comprehensive national and international news and trading information. A one year sub is normally $500 + GST, but thanks to the Carbon News team I am now able offer Hot Topic readers a special price of $300 + GST for the first year. I think that’s terrific value for an excellent service.

This special offer goes hand-in-hand with the introduction of registration at Hot Topic. Until now, commenters have been able to leave comments without logging on to the site, but that seems to encourage spammers. Not many spam comments make it onto the site because I use the excellent spam filtering service Akismet, but I have to wade through piles of rubbish every morning in case a real comment has been misidentified. From now on, to leave a comment you’ll have to log in to the blog. Registration is simple and painless, and your confirmation email will include the special code you’ll need to take advantage of the Carbon News offer. Let me know if you have any problems…