Take care the road you choose

vote1.pngNow that one election’s out of the way, (a good result: Obama’s committed to 80 percent reductions by 2050) time to focus on what’s happening in New Zealand. I’ve promised several times to offer an analysis of the major parties offerings on climate change and emissions reductions, but I’ve been pre-empted by a very useful summary by Vote for the Environment (a joint effort by Eco and Greenpeace). They set up an “ideal” set of environment policies, and then surveyed the parties and scored their answers. The results are pretty close to my impression of the state of the parties…

Vote for the Environment’s (VE) five key goals are:

1: Tackle climate change by reducing GHG emissions by 30% on 1990 levels by 2020

2: Clean up all New Zealand streams and rivers by 2020

3: Reform oceans management by 2010 to preserve and protect the marine environment

4: Save New Zealand’s natural heritage

5: Show leadership for the Environment

I have a long-promised post in the works on emissions reductions targets, but the VE suggestion is certainly in the right ballpark. The climate change section develops the theme:

New Zealand lags behind many developed countries that have committed to unilateral emission reductions of 20% by 2020 and 30% emission reductions if other developed countries match them. New Zealand is not even a fast follower, let alone a leader. New Zealand needs to:

Bring all sectors and gases into the Emissions Trading Scheme by January 2011.

Ban all new large scale thermal electricity generation

Spend $4 billion over five years to 2013 on public and active transport, including rail.

Ban new coal mines and fully protect the upper Waimangaroa Valley including Happy Valley.

Retain the $1 billion energy efficiency and conservation fund.

In my view it’s asking a lot to bring the entire agriculture sector into the ETS much earlier than 2013, but it’s a laudable objective, at least. A thermal ban makes sense, as does an expansion of public transport and the retention of the energy efficiency fund. Banning new coal mines would bring joy to Hansen’s heart

The results (PDF) are in some respects entirely as expected, in others surprising. On the one hand, the Greens do rather well, scoring 97%, but ACT didn’t bother to reply[1. Note that ACT sent Kathleen McCabe, #42 on their list, to represent them in Radio NZ National’s debate on the environment last Sunday. Listen to her contribution (stream, mp3) (from about 15:30), where she basically lies through her teeth: “We’ve employed some of the best paleoclimatological limnologists – and other scientists…” She clearly has no idea what she’s talking about.] which seems to be about par for the course. The Maori Party come second with 87%, which is perhaps surprising given their vote against the ETS (based on significant Maori concern about forestry in the ETS and the impact on treaty settlement land values), but they do talk a good environment…

NZ First’s third place (78%) seemed a bit high to me, but they did support the ETS and Doug Woolerton put in a strong performance in Radio NZ National’s weekend debate on environment issues (links in footnote). Anderton (weak on agriculture) and Dunne (weak) fill the middle ground, but Labour and National prop up the bottom of the scorecard on 44% and 27% respectively.

For the two major parties – the people who expect to head the next government – to score so badly should be embarrassing to them. But it will do National no harm in its rural heartland, where scepticism on climate change and the need for action is still alive and well. Labour have no such excuse. (Handy summary of parties voting records here).

Hot Topic – the book – did its best to be non-partisan (but not apolitical). Hot Topic – the blog – is not a political blog, but regular readers have probably worked out where I’m coming from. 😉 Only two parties rule themselves completely out consideration from my point of view – ACT and The Family Party, both of whom are overtly sceptical of the reality of the problem. From the perspective of getting the nearest thing to an “ideal” climate policy, then a strong Green presence in the next parliament might bring some backbone to a Labour-led coalition, but it’s hard to see the Maori Party moderating National’s willingness to dilute the ETS. If the next government is a National/ACT/UF coalition, that would suggest that climate policy will take a back seat to other agendas, and the lobbying of special interests will find a ready ear. In some respects, I rather regret that the Green Party has ruled out working with National – though I fully understand their reasoning. A National government that took conservatism seriously (in a conservation sort of way), might be supportable. It is a very great pity that they haven’t attempted to follow in the British Conservative party’s footsteps, where David Cameron has been painting the blue party green.

I would urge all New Zealand voters to carefully consider who they support. The next three years are not going to lessen the need for urgent action or decrease NZ’s vulnerability to climate change and actions that other countries take to address it. Obama’s presidency should signal a renewed US commitment to international climate action, and a ramping up of the post-Kyoto negotiations. Climate policy and emissions reductions are not optional accessories for New Zealand. We need a government willing to take decisive action, and play its part on the world stage. How we get that is up to you.

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