Big emitters bite back

 Wp-Content Uploads 2007 09 Nzets1-4NZ’s big greenhouse gas emitters have begun a push back against the government’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and energy strategy. Last week an industry group including the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, Federated Farmers, the Major Electricity Users Group, Business Roundtable, the Chambers Of Commerce, and others wrote to Helen Clark warning that, as Colin Espiner in The Press reported, “the Government’s proposed Energy Trading Scheme (ETS) is being rushed through Parliament without adequate consultation with industry. It says the Government is refusing to release any economic analysis to back its claims the new system will have a negligible impact on economic growth.” Fran O’Sullivan in the Herald provided more context, with news of the first meeting of the government’s Climate Change Leadership Forum, but it’s clear that a coordinated effort to derail the ETS is under way.

Whether you think the ETS timetable is rushed or not depends on your definition of “adequate consultation”, but the group seemed to be astonishingly badly informed about the government’s economic modelling. At the ETS workshop in Christchurch a few weeks ago, officials were promising the imminent release of modelling by Infometrics, and there were members of the emitters group present (Holcim & Solid Energy to my certain knowledge). The numbers were duly released a day after the emitter’s letter [Herald, NBR, press release, full report (PDF)] and are more or less the numbers I blogged after the workshop. Not scary, in other words.

The big danger in this is that National might be tempted to play politics with the ETS to appease some of its traditional corporate support. Press political editor Colin Espiner appears to have been captured by the big emitters (he described the energy strategy in his blog as “Polyanna-ish claptrap”), and believes National will be keen to ditch Labour’s targets. Colin James at the Herald disagrees:

National doesn’t want unfinished business. If elected, it wants in its first year to accentuate policy positives, not get bogged down reworking the emissions scheme to deal with gripes and demands from its farm and business constituencies. That could turn into a political quicksand, as the ill-fated carbon tax did for Labour.

Meanwhile, Rod Oram in the Sunday Star Times excoriates the big emitters:

If our business lobbyists were sensible, they would push the government to act fast and effectively on a great competitive advantage the country has: by capitalising on our extensive sources of renewable energy, we can quickly uncouple the cost of our electricity from the fast-rising cost of fossil fuels and carbon. And in decades to come we could also start to do the same for our land transport too. […] It is this lack of economic and business sense that best explains why business lobbyists are hell-bent on playing the political card on climate change and energy. For the sake of themselves and the country, they should switch to doing business well rather than politics badly.

To be effective, climate policy needs broad cross-party support. I hope Colin James’ reading of the entrails is better than Espiner’s. And congratulations to the SST sub who wrote the headline for Oram’s piece: The Fossil Fools. You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment….

One thought on “Big emitters bite back”

  1. The letter that the five environmental groups wrote to the government in response to the business lobby letter, urging them to stand firm on climate policy, has gone almost unreported, in contrast to the Skilling piece, which is all over the news today. But one of the signatories to the environmentalist’s letter was Guy Salmon, of Ecologic, who wrote much of National’s Blue-Green climate change document.

    I agree about Rod Oram’s piece – fantastic!

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