Simon Johnson/aka Mr February argues that the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme has become living-dead “zombie” legislation that infects other statutes with its own virulent climate change insanity. The example is a recent decision by the Environment Court that it can’t consider climate change impacts of coal mining as described by James Hansen in the Forest and Bird appeal of the resource consents for the opencast ‘Escarpment’ coal mine.
The other week I watched the zombie genre film 28 Weeks Later. The turning point in the film came when British actor Robert Carlyle kissed his wife and was instantly infected with the ‘Rage Virus’, which of course meant he had to turn into a homicidal-virus spreading-living-dead zombie who would then infect the rest of the surviving population of post-Rage Virus London. A great zombie movie moment!
For me, another much less amusing zombie moment, was last week’s news from TVNZ, Radio NZ, the Otago Daily Times, and the Dominion Post, that the Environment Court had declared that climate change effects from coal mining will not be considered in Forest and Bird’s appeal of the consents granted for the Escarpment Mine Project, an opencast coal mine on the ecologically sensitive Denniston Plateau.
For background to the Escarpment Mine Project, including James Hansen’s videotaped climate change evidence given to Jeanette Fitzsimons, and the conservation and biodiversity issues, see Claire Brownings Pundit post. And there is wildlife photographer Rod Morris’ view that the mine proposal is simply ecological destruction on a massive scale. Botanist Alan Mark reminds us that the coal measure landscape of the Denniston Plateau is the only one left as Solid Energy have destroyed the other one — the Stockton Plateau.
According to the Dominion Post, Judge Newhook’s decision was that:
…”regulatory activity on the important topic of climate change is taken firmly away from regional government and made the subject of appropriate attention from time to time by central government by way of activity at a national level”.
If we are at all unclear what that means, coal apologist and Stratera boss Chris Baker explains that this means the NZETS: “We have an emissions trading scheme, we are well ahead of our obligation internationally…“.
The utter illogic of the “we have an ETS, more coal mining and exporting is okay” argument is that although the NZETS applies to all coal mined within New Zealand, all coal exported is exempted. Bathhurst Resources intends to export all the coal from the Escarpment Mine. So the application of the zombie NZETS to coal mining means that there will be no carbon price on the coal from the Escarpment Mine.
And this zombie effect of the NZETS in making coal “alive but dead” to a carbon price, then infects the application of our great sustainability-promoting externality-internalising Resource Management Act. The coal exports are “regulated” (in reality protected) by the NZETS. Therefore the RMA doesn’t apply.
The consequence will be that the Environment Court will not be considering the effects of the Escarpment Mine on a level playing field. They will attempt to reach a broad overall judgement of what is sustainable. They will balance the economic effects of more export dollars and jobs on the West Coast against the many adverse environmental impacts on a unique coal measure ecosystem full of rare and endangered endemic species. But the process won’t be neutral, as the adverse impact and externality of the greenhouse effect of the coal won’t be included.