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]

A good thing

NZETS.jpgThere are signs that sanity might be emerging from the nitty gritty of the ETS review. On Friday Carbon News reported that Labour and the Greens had approached National to offer their support for an amended ETS, undercutting any influence ACT may have sought. Charles Chauvel, Labour’s climate spokesman, told Carbon News that it was a serious offer:

“It’s serious and thought-through,” he said. “We had a talk in our caucus and think it’s got to the point were they (the Government) have got themselves so tied up and captive to one side that if we don’t offer to be the circuit-breaker we won’t have an ETS.”

According to CN, climate minister Nick Smith had responded positively. That’s excellent news, because as I said in my submission to the ETS Review, the country really needs to build a long-term cross-party consensus on climate policy.

Also on Friday, in a press release about NZ’s stance in the next phase of K2 negotiations at Bonn, Smith took the opportunity to confirm that the government was still committed to “50 by 50”, and a global target for greenhouse gases:

“New Zealand supports a global goal of long-term stabilisation of all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a concentration of no higher than 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalents. This goal will be kept under review based on latest available intergovernmental assessments of science,” says Dr Smith.

Good. That’s the first time I’ve seen Smith commit to a global target, but I’m not sure he realises what 450 ppm CO2e really means. Consider the more than slightly inconvenient fact that we’re already at 450 ppm CO2e, but much of that is being masked by aerosols (aerosols bring the warming effect back to about the same level as current CO2 levels — 387 ppm). He might have meant 450 ppm CO2, or perhaps be factoring in a substantial overshoot before achieving stabilisation. In any event, if New Zealand is going to accept emissions targets similar to other developed countries, we’ll have to do better than 50 by 50, or risk being seen as free-riders.
Finally: two good articles on what ETS “harmonisation” with Australia might mean. There’s a thorough analysis by top law firm Chapman Tripp here, and an interesting piece by Brian Fallow in the Herald here. Bottom line? Linking the schemes is possible, but given Australia’s very different emissions profile and scheme design, could mean watering the NZ ETS down significantly. It would also mean much more support for “trade exposed” businesses — so expect the usual suspects to rush to support linking the schemes.

[St Etienne]

Sitting in limbo

Parliament has risen for the summer recess, and New Zealand’s climate policy is reduced to a train wreck of repealed legislation and uncertainty about the emissions trading scheme. PM John Key confirmed under persistent questioning by Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons yesterday that the ETS would not actually be put on hold. From Hansard:

Jeanette Fitzsimons: With regard to those parts of the emissions trading scheme that came into force on 1 January 2008—relating to forestry—will the Prime Minister or will he not put on hold the penalty regime for deforestation during 2008, and the credits that foresters expect to claim in January 2009 for the carbon sequestered by their forests this year?

Hon JOHN KEY: The current legislation and rules about deforestation stay in place, pending the outcome of the select committee.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: In that case, what precisely is the Prime Minister suspending or putting on hold, given that nothing else is due to come in until 2010 and he is retaining the parts that are already in force; or is the Prime Minister saying that the forestry bit may be taken out of force later, which means they will have to give their credits back?

Hon JOHN KEY: That is exactly the point. Nothing is coming in until 2010 outside of forestry. The high-level select committee will have reported back. It is the hope of the Government that the legislation that will replace the existing emissions trading scheme legislation will be in place long before January 2010.

Fitzsimons take on the exchange at Frogblog is worth a read. Meanwhile, let’s run through a little history. When the ETS was first launched, National supported it. Then they withdrew support for the legislation in the run-up to the election, but campaigned on keeping the basic ETS structure while tinkering with (also known as watering down) the settings. Post-election, to pacify Rodney and his pack of cranks, the ETS was to be put on hold while a select committee considered, amongst other things, whether a carbon tax might be better. Now, on the last day of this session, we learn they’re not going to do that, and the legislation stands until amended.

If this seems like a government that doesn’t know what it’s doing, then I’m not the only one to notice. Brian Fallow in today’s Herald is withering in his criticism. He notes Australia’s new — and disappointing — targets for carbon dioxide reductions:

It ill behoves anyone on this side of the Tasman to be scornful about that, however. At least the Australians have an intermediate target. We have none. At least they have a climate change policy. Ours is in shambolic limbo.

Worse, Key considers that the Rudd government is on the right track, describing Aussie policy as “a very considered and balanced approach to climate change” in Parliament. As Fallow memorably concludes:

Given the countries’ different starting points, Australia’s mid-century target of a 60 per cent reduction in emissions from 2000 levels is similar to National’s 50 per cent from 1990 levels. But while Rudd is taking at least baby steps in that direction, Key is performing some kind of pirouette.

It’s an unedifying spectacle.

[Title reference]

Care of environment could be good for jobs

When the Greens announced Labour as their preferred partner for any post-election negotiations John Key was quick with the accusation that the Greens in government would mean environmental policies would have precedence, that jobs would be sold down the river and that economic growth would be on the backburner.

Continue reading “Care of environment could be good for jobs”

Things are gonna change (the morning after)

On the morning after I was more interested in the rugby than agonising over the entrails of Saturday night’s election result, but today it’s worth traversing what new Zealand’s new political landscape might bring for climate policy. For the wider picture, I recommend Russell Brown’s take at Hard News and Gordon Campbell’s at Scoop; they summarise the politics of the situation nicely.

The big question, of course, is to what extent Rodney Hide’s ACT contingent – guaranteed a coalition deal, with Hide in cabinet – can persuade prime minister designate John Key to modify National’s policy on the Emissions Trading Scheme (keeping it, but watering it down even further).

Continue reading “Things are gonna change (the morning after)”