You’re the (NZ) first, the last, my everything

by Gareth on August 6, 2008

NZETS.jpg So what’s happening to the Emissions Trading Scheme legislation? It seems to be stuck in the parliamentary back rooms, presumably because the government is struggling to put together enough votes to get the bill (or a version of it) passed before the election. No Right Turn has been keeping tabs on progress, and is of the opinion that time is rapidly running out.

My own totally unwarranted speculation is that the government has calculated it needs NZ First to get the bill through, and that certain well-publicised problems faced by that party’s leader are holding things up. Labour could probably do a deal with the Greens and Maori Party, but that would mean a tougher scheme and lead to loud squeals from the big emitters. It would give National another stick to beat them with… So Winston it is. Or perhaps isn’t. Whatever, negotiations probably involve a lot of pompous blustering…

I usually try to steer clear of party politics on Hot Topic, and I went to some lengths to make the book as non-partisan as possible. I don’t care who my readers vote for, but I do care that our political parties have sound climate-related policy. I would hope to encourage people to take that into account when voting. When we have an election date, I plan to put together a handy guide…

Anyway, please use this post for all pre-election political commentary.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen August 6, 2008 at 8:55 pm

I suggest that National’s ’50 by 50′ will be proven to be nothing but a meaningless platitude without any short or medium term targets, which is highly unlikely to be forthcoming, in my opinion.

The economic climate will do the same for Labour as for National (not a lot of difference between the two). National getting in before the bill is passed will delay action by another several months though.

Green/Maori – Gareth said it all.

NZ First – sounds like they just want moderate policy along with provisions for low income earner protection…shouldn’t be too difficult, I would think.

ACT – I read in the ‘detail’ document behind the 20 point plan that the last period of warming finished in 1998′, so ‘nuf said (No one was going to vote for them based on climate change anyway though!).

cindy August 6, 2008 at 9:03 pm

Hmmm Stephen I think people WOULD vote for ACT based on climate, but from an utterly different direction: ACT’s scepticism. They’ve been touting the Swindle round town for a while now… (and don’t start me on muriel newman).

Is National’s “50 by 50″ on a 1990 baseline or this the 2005 baseline as Canada and Japan have been touting around lately? (Noting, though that the new Japanese envt minister yesterday talked of 25-40% by 2020 on 1990 levels).

I’m not in NZ at the moment, so can’t take any temperature of what’s going on – but yes, my feeling before I left was that while Labour could go with Greens and Maori, they wanted more support.

Carol August 6, 2008 at 10:20 pm

I agree, Cindy. I went to a talk at the ACT party HQ, such as it is, a while ago. It was by a tiresome Swede called Nils-Axel Morner who maintains that sea levels worldwide are not rising, but falling. He also touted the ‘Swindle’ ideas. Needless to say he didn’t welcome questions, except of the patsy variety.

gareth August 6, 2008 at 10:37 pm

Perhaps I/S has been doing some numbers on support for the ETS?

As for ACT, I think you’re both right. Newman clearly sees climate denial as their point of difference with National, something the far right can unite behind. I would guess Rodney’s not too keen on that, what with actually having to front up in parliament, but out in voter land Newman’s calculation may be reasonable.

Judy M August 6, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Last week I attended a university talk by David Parker. In the Q and A he was talking up the ETS bill as if it was going to be introduced this session, but admitted it was difficult juggling support parties.

One thing that came up is that multi-nationals were pouring in lobbyists, and that they regarded the New Zealand bill as a bit of a test case – the more they could win this time, the easier it would be to lobby bills in other countries.

He implied the MNs were angling for intensity measures, rather than a cap. Didn’t sound as if he was going to cave to that, but after the other “compromises”, who knows.

I wish they would introduce the bill as they think it should be, and take the case to the country, shaming National and United Future, and the lobbyists for being such millstones, but bringing the GP and MP on board.

Parker knows how important it is to have a strong scheme in place, but I’m not sure about the rest of his party.

cindy August 6, 2008 at 11:28 pm

This “energy intensity” argument is rubbish – it’s one that has been touted by the US Govt and Howard’s Govt (was big at APEC last year).

Essentially, it’s energy efficiency with another name… and every company is trying to get more energy efficient – it saves them money!

Check out today’s Guardian – erk I can’t seem to get it online right now – bad connection – but there’s a story about the Drax coal-fired power station’s profits halving because of the permits it has to pay for carbon emissions. This is what industry’s scared of.

But seeing the ETS in NZ as a test case is weird – surely the ETS in Europe is already up and running?

Judy M August 7, 2008 at 7:46 am

Well, I thought so too. Perhaps the lobbyists weren’t as well organised then (joke). Or perhaps the industries were different. Not sure how any aluminium smelters there are in Europe.

Stephen August 7, 2008 at 8:52 am

Whoops, I ignored United Future…but then that wouldn’t make me all that special now would it.

BryanW August 7, 2008 at 9:20 am

In the little I’ve heard of David Parker I certainly get the impression that he understands the imperatives and wants to meet them. But there is little sign of a mobilising of all sectors of government in an integrated fashion. Public passenger transport is a good example. I have bothered the Transport Minister more than once, querying the level of funding for public transport by central government when compared with government’s professed concern about climate change. This arose out of my experience in making submissions to Environment Waikato who are delaying some previously adopted planned improvements to Hamilton’s bus services on the grounds that they received an electoral mandate to keep rates down. (Currently the government meets 50% of the cost of approved services after fare income is deducted and the local body must raise the other 50% from rates.)

I pointed out to the Minister that it seems unwise to make so much of the public transport system dependent on rates. Local bodies are too vulnerable to takeover by narrowly focused people who have little awareness or understanding of climate change issues, and who appear to be under little obligation to take them into account. Whereas government is well apprised of the issues and committed to tackling them.

Her reply was interesting – and disappointing. She recognised that climate change is a national concern but was adamant that the provision of public transport remains a regional council responsibility and went on to say (and this is the point at which I felt the Ministry is stuck in a time warp) that since the majority of benefits of passenger transport are experienced within the region it operates, it is also appropriate that regional councils provide a significant proportion of funding for public transport.

I would have thought that a Ministry which was attuned to climate change concerns would recognise that the ‘benefits’ of passenger transport are primarily national and global in that they impact on the level of greenhouse gas emissions. No doubt there is room for some debate over the proportioning of costs, but to settle on 50% on the grounds that the benefits are primarily local seems to me to be simply business as usual, carried on as if the climate change issue hardly existed.

I have little doubt that the same phenomenon is apparent across many areas of government. For the time being we seem to be mired in contradictions. Hopefully it is only for the time being, but the inability of the issue to rise to the top of political debate is disappointing. I share Judy’s wish that the government would take the case to the country but admit it would be a pleasant surprise if they did.

JonnoFakename August 7, 2008 at 9:27 am

Last week, I went to the MfE Voluntary Carbon Market Workshop. The scary thing was that a couple key note speakers believe that the ETS will make carbon emitting activities carbon neutral.

Murray Ward tried to explain to them the difference, but they still believe it is carbon neutral. These guys are so called experts. If they keep telling people this, then people may go on and keep emitting GHGs, thinking that it is okay, due to the ETS.

gareth August 7, 2008 at 9:45 am

Name names! Bring out the secret recordings! Can you expand your comment a little, Mr Fakename?

JonnoFakename August 7, 2008 at 9:54 am

James Moulder (Mighty River Power) and Julia Hoare, (Price Waterhouse Coopers). Joanna Silver said that she sat on the fence. It seemed that Murray was on his own in the pannel dicussion.

gareth August 7, 2008 at 10:14 am

I’ve done sessions at conferences with Moulder and Hoare. I’m surprised they don’t get the difference between the ETS and carbon neutrality. And I’m surprised they didn’t bow to Murray’s wisdom, which is impressive in this area.

JonnoFakename August 7, 2008 at 10:23 am

Yes, I am really surprised (on both your points). I am kind of shocked that people think the ETS means carbon neutrality. I guess you can argue that you could claim the offset reductions available through the ETS, when conducting a carbon footprint, but as far as I remember, we had cars and cows back in 1990 and weren’t carbon neutral. If we were, then the ETS would make us carbon neutral.

Also, you’d think that Murray would know Kyoto and NZ’s commitment better than anyone else in this country (Ralph Chapman may know just as much). They both negotiated the country’s commitment in 1997. You think people would listen to him!

gareth August 7, 2008 at 10:51 am

Yes, I think your understanding is the same as mine. The ETS might have some relevance in a carbon footprint assessment, but in no way “offsets” all emissions.

Idiot/Savant August 7, 2008 at 11:08 am

Perhaps I/S has been doing some numbers on support for the ETS?

Only in a rough way, but you’re right: they need NZ First on board. And that sticks them with trying to get a compromise path between two parties with two very different agendas for climate change.

(The Maori Party is not an option – 48 + 1 + 6 + 4 < 61, and neither Gordon Copeland or Taito Phillip Field are going to help them out of that hole).

JonnoFakename August 7, 2008 at 11:17 am

I heard that NZ First were happy to support, till a certain NZ First MP thought he can game play.

Idiot/Savant August 7, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Jonno: I’m not an insider, so I don’t know. But I’ll be watching the Business Statement at 2pm today to see if there is any progress.

JonnoFakename August 7, 2008 at 1:53 pm

I am not an insider, but have heard this on the streets, it could be wrong, but makes sense to me

Idiot/Savant August 7, 2008 at 2:21 pm

And no progress today either. So if the bill doesn’t pass in September, we’ll be relying on National to pass it.

gareth August 7, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Or not. Do we realistically expect a National government, with an openly sceptic ACT rump, and a complacent Peter Dunne in support, to just pick up the bill and run with it? I imagine Nick Smith will make a big thing about reopening consultation, aligning with Australia etc etc. But where does that leave the forestry sector? In limbo.

There will be squeals from all round, whatever happens…

Idiot/Savant August 7, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Or not. Do we realistically expect a National government, with an openly sceptic ACT rump, and a complacent Peter Dunne in support, to just pick up the bill and run with it?

No, I don’t. But neither do I expect them to repeal it if it does manage to get passed. Which is why I think its now or never, and the Greens (if they are the impediment) should think of the long-term and vote for the bloody thing, despite its imperfections.

gareth August 7, 2008 at 3:01 pm

I think I probably agree, but you can’t blame the Greens for being reluctant to help out. However, I suspect that push may be about to come to shove…

JonnoFakename August 7, 2008 at 3:15 pm

But would a weak ETS remain weak?

cindy August 7, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Peter Dunne showed his cards when his dealbreaker coming into power after the last election was that Clark had to drop the carbon tax – which she did.

Would a weak ETS remain weak? Well if it’s set up to give exemptions till 2020 (or whatever the dates are) then it will remain weak, but, like other ETS’s, and even Kyoto, it ought to be able to be ratcheted up.

If it’s weak now, there’s no way it would be strengthened by the Nats – thinly veiled sceptics that they are. But I think you’re right, Idiot Savant – it wouldn’t get thrown out. Just never ratcheted up like it alreay needs to be.

The greens have to let it go through – but it’s whether Labour will have it go through with only Green and Maori support is the thing.

Tushara August 7, 2008 at 10:03 pm

I don’t know if you can blame Dunne… I think that’s just an excuse… Treasury wanted to drop it before the last election

Idiot/Savant August 7, 2008 at 10:19 pm

But would a weak ETS remain weak?

The weakness is in the initial phase in, and doesn’t matter that much; inthe long-term, what matters is the size of the cap. And this is open for political negotiation through the coalition process – both up and down.

I doubt the Nats will put any sinking cap mechanism in place to meet their “50 by 50″ target. But even then, with the projected size of the 2013 cap, the ETS should still have a significant effect on emissions. And at some stage, the Greens will be able to kneecap a party into imposing a sinking cap. The sooner they are able to, the easier it will be for everyone.

Idiot/Savant August 7, 2008 at 10:20 pm

but it’s whether Labour will have it go through with only Green and Maori support is the thing.

Nope – that’s one vote short of a majority. and I don’t think Field is going to bail out his former colleagues at this point.

gareth August 7, 2008 at 10:44 pm

What’s Winston’s price? It was suggested that he wanted phased support for his superannuitant power base. We know that the Greens want things tightened up. Can the two be made compatible in time? I hope so.

If I wanted to be optimistic about no ETS pre-election, I might argue that this would give everybody a chance to take a deep breath and build a new cross-party consensus. But then I might also believe in fairies… The sad reality is that if there is no ETS this year, the delayers will have won. If I wanted to be pessimistic, I might suggest that the stark reality of climate change in the northern hemisphere over the next decade is going to make what we do completely irrelevant.

Idiot/Savant August 8, 2008 at 11:34 am

What’s Winston’s price?

It doesn’t matter. At this stage in the electoral cycle, no-one can make credible promises – particularly not a government which looks to be heading out the door. Which means any tradeoffs have to be within the bill itself, not on things requiring exra legislation.

Bad timing on labour’s part, IMHO.

Judy M August 14, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Great righteous rant on National’s energy policy today, I/S!

Judy M August 21, 2008 at 5:20 pm

The Greens have put out a call for feedback on whether they should support the current bill or not. Email contact in the link.

Gareth August 21, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Thanks Judy – interesting details in Jeanette’s statement…

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