Some cuts are bigger than others

targetNick Smith and the government’s insistence that a sensible emissions target for 2020 is too expensive to even contemplate is coming under more pressure with the release today of a report [PDF] prepared by the Green Party, which they claim shows that big cuts are affordable. Announcing the release of the report, Greens climate spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons said [Scoop]:

“The Government says it can’t be done, but careful research shows it can be done. Environment Minister Nick Smith says it’s too hard and too expensive to set a responsible target, but the facts and the science say something different,” Ms Fitzsimons stated. “In the absence of leadership from the Government on this issue, weâ’e done the work. There’s a way to be optimistic and constructive in the face of a major international challenge but it seems the Government is taking a different path.”

A key part of the Green strategy involves a major commitment to tree planting and pest control in native forests, both of which Smith seems keen to ignore or misrepresent — as his response, headlined Bold 2020 target comes with high price demonstrates. Smith is content to trot out his current mantra, “We need an ambitious but achievable goal for 2020 that balances the environmental risks of climate change with the economic impacts on New Zealand of reducing emissions”. The minister is of course completely correct, but since he lacks ambition, gets the “environmental risks” completely wrong and continually overstates the cost of action, I expect the government’s goal to be too soft — and therefore immensely damaging to New Zealand’s long term interests.

Update 5/8: Jeanette Fitzsimons at Frogblog on Nick Smith’s response to questions in the House today:

Not a single question of mine answered, not a single point in our report addressed, but finally, the last refuge of someone with no arguments, a personal attack […] NZ deserves a “can do” minister, not a “can’t do, won’t try” government.

[The Smiths]

4 thoughts on “Some cuts are bigger than others”

  1. I wonder what the credentials of the Ministry of Economic Development are for analysing these matters. Nearly three years ago the Royal Society Energy Panel produced a splendid energy report which among other things claimed a full transition to renewables in electricity generation by 2020 could be readily achieved, and set out how in considerable detail. But of course they took climate change seriously. The Ministry of Economic Development declares it “works to ensure New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to do business, and to make a real difference to the country’s economic performance.” Nothing about climate change there. Science gets ignored again.

    1. The claim in Smiths release about destocking NZ by a third to get emissions reductions looks to have been lifted from Feds posturing (a wild guess, but…). To persuade me that he’s right, let’s see the government go through the Green proposals line by line and explain why they won’t work. I suspect that might be too much like hard work. They’ve decided their target already, and are looking for justification, not alternatives.

  2. I see on the Herald website this morning that Key in a speech to Brisbane business men has repeated his usual line that New Zealand’s target would balance economic reality with environmental need. In relation to the 40% reduction target apparently his most noteworthy comment was: “My advice to Keisha is this: Stick to acting.”

    It’s not surprising that he holds out little hope of agreement at Copenhagen. When asked if he had any optimism in relation to the talks he replied “not really”. He thought there would eventually be an outcome, but more likely in 2010 and described it in terms of a watered-down commitment from developed countries.

    Not only is the government refusing to plan realistically to reduce emissions, it is evidently hoping that all the other developed countries will do the same. Here’s hoping they get some nasty surprises.

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