John Key has just announced the deal he has signed with ACT, allowing National to form a minority government. It looks – at least in terms of the agreement on climate policy, very much like Hide’s tail is wagging the National dog, and New Zealand’s stance on climate change is about to take a big turn for the worse. Implementation of the ETS is to be delayed until a special select committee reports on climate policy. The agreement includes the following section on climate policy:
National is committed to retaining measures to address New Zealandâ€™s Kyoto obligations, by making amendments to the legislation that will balance our environmental responsibilities with our economic needs. ACT campaigned on a policy of abolishing the ETS.
National agrees to a review by a special select committee of Parliament of the current Emissions Trading Scheme legislation and any amendments or alternatives to it, including carbon taxes, in the light of current economic circumstances and steps now being undertaken by similar nations.
National further agrees to pass forthwith an amendment to the ETS legislation delaying its implementation, repealing the thermal generation ban and making any other necessary interim adjustments until the select committee review is completed.
ACT is not opposed to New Zealand adopting responsible climate change policies. What it opposes is an ETS that was never adequately justified. If a rigorous select committee inquiry establishes a credible case that New Zealanders would benefit from action by New Zealand, in conjunction with other countries that are important to us, ACT would be prepared to support legislation giving effect to such action. National agrees that the Terms of Reference for such an inquiry will be mutually agreed between ACT and National and that the Terms of Reference proposed by ACT are attached as Appendix 1 will be an initial basis for discussion.
Before the election, National was committed to retaining the ETS. Now it is only committed to “retaining measures to address New Zealandâ€™s Kyoto obligations”. It looks very much like the current framework of policy on climate change is about to be dismantled, and that John Key has failed his first test as prime minister – before he’s been sworn in.
Full text of ACT’s proposed terms of reference below the fold:
Terms of reference:
The committee shall:
â€¢ hear competing views on the scientific aspects of climate change from internationally respected sources and assess the quality and impartiality of official advice
â€¢ hear views from trade and diplomatic experts on the international relations aspects of this issue
â€¢ consider the prospects for an international agreement on climate change post Kyoto I, and the form such an agreement might take
â€¢ require a high quality, quantified regulatory impact analysis to be produced to identify the net benefits or costs to New Zealand of any policy action, including international relations and commercial benefits and costs
â€¢ consider the impact on the New Zealand economy and New Zealand households of any climate change policies, having regard to the weak state of the economy, the need to safeguard New Zealandâ€™s international competitiveness, the position of trade-exposed industries, and the actions of competing countries
â€¢ examine the relative merits of a mitigation or adaptation approach to climate change for New Zealand
â€¢ consider the case for increasing resources devoted to New Zealand-specific climate change research
â€¢ examine the relative merits of an emissions trading scheme or a tax on carbon or energy as a New Zealand response to climate change
â€¢ consider the need for any additional regulatory interventions to combat climate change if a price mechanism (an ETS or a tax) is introduced
â€¢ consider the timing of introduction of any New Zealand measures, with particular reference to the outcome of the December 2009 Copenhagen meeting, the position of the United States, and the timetable for decisions and their implementation of the Australian government.
Future work on climate change, including the work of the select committee, shall be resourced by a high quality advisory group comprising government officials and private sector experts.
If this anything like the final shape of the terms of reference, National will not only be reinventing the wheel, but riding backwards on it like a drunk on a unicycle.