Where do we go but nowhere?

New Zealand’s general election is over. The National Party has won itself another three years in government. With a probable overall majority and the support of three fringe MPs, prime minister John Key and his cabinet will be able to do more or less what they like. Given the government’s performance on climate matters over the last six years — turning the Emissions Trading Scheme into little more than a corporate welfare handout while senior cabinet ministers flirt with outright climate denial — and with signals that they intend to modify the Resource Management Act to make it easier to drill, mine and pollute, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the next three years are going to see New Zealand’s climate policies slip even further out of touch with what’s really necessary.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of why opposition parties were unable to persuade voters to unseat Key & Co: that’s being widely canvassed. I do want to consider what might be done to prevent the next three years being as bad as the last six from a climate policy perspective.

One thing is very clear: the climate issue is not going away. While carbon emissions hit new records, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has been trying to galvanise world leaders to take the issue seriously. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens have taken part in people’s climate marches around the world. And the climate news remains, as ever, gloomy. Ice melts, floods surge and sea levels continue to rise. “Business as usual” continues, but is being challenged on many levels.

Gareth Morgan, the motorbike adventurer, philanthropist and prolific author, is no stranger to the climate debate. He understands the issue in the way only someone who has written a book on the subject can ( 😉 ). In a recent blog post, Morgan looked at what it might take to get climate action in the current New Zealand political climate. His conclusion? That we need a new “bluegreen” political party.

But for me, the most frustrating aspect of the election result is the entrenched inability of the Green Party to grasp that the environmental message is something that appeals to middle-of-the-road New Zealanders, not just Lefties.

Sadly the Green Party’s policies for environmental sustainability have always come with a nasty fishhook – the out-dated edict that social justice can only be achieved by rehashed socialism. This has rendered the Green Party a real melon to mainstream New Zealand – a watermelon to be precise, far too red on the inside for middle New Zealand to stomach.

For me, the frustrating thing is that the other Gareth’s1 political analysis completely misreads what’s going on at the same time as his analysis of National government’s performance on climate over the last six years is absolutely spot on….

Morgan’s view of the Green Party is common enough, and his bluegreen blog post has certainly attracted a fair bit of social media support. The “watermelon” trope is an accusation that’s been levelled at green parties and environmental activists around the world since at least the 1970s, and has its roots in the further reaches of far right US ideology. It’s a cheap shot, and not helpful to getting climate action, mainly because the NZ Green Party is what the Green Party is — an environmentally conscious party with deep roots in social justice campaigns going back 40 years.

The Green Party is what it is because that’s what its members want it to be, and as it is arguably the party most accountable to its membership for policy development and candidate selection, that’s entirely appropriate2.

Morgan’s misrepresentation of the Greens buys into the very message extreme right wingers are trying to reinforce in order to prevent climate and environment action. By doing that he also completely misreads what needs to be done if we are to get serious climate policy enacted by a centre-right government in New Zealand.

The last thing we need is a new and poorly defined political party: right of centre on economics and social issues, but reality-based when it comes to climate and the environment. How long would such a party take to build? How long before it could hold the balance of power in post-election negotiations. Six years? Nine years? Too long, by far, even if it could be put together in the first place.

Climate and environment issues do not sit on a left-right political spectrum, however hard the right might want it to seem so. They are external to party politics — challenges that all parties, whatever their ideology, have to come to terms with.

In order to endure, climate policy needs to develop out of a broad policy consensus and a shared assessment of the risk NZ (and the world) faces as a result of continuing warming.

The big question for the next three years is not so much about building a policy consensus — we (arguably) have one in the continued existence of an emissions trading scheme3 — but in communicating a realistic assessment of the climate risks NZ faces.

The key to that lies in persuading the leadership of the National Party that they can’t just leave climate policy on the back burner, a plaything for diplomats and Tim Groser. John Key, Bill English, Steven Joyce, and Gerry Brownlee need to be persuaded to accept that climate change represents a clear strategic and physical risk to the economic and social well-being of all New Zealanders — including all the people who voted for them, and all the financial backers who funded their re-election.

This will not be easy. Philip Mills, one of the founders of the Pure Advantage and 100% Plan lobby groups, gave up his efforts to lobby Key & Co earlier this year. The NZ Herald reported on his frustration:

Mr Mills, son of Les Mills and a former New Zealand athlete, said he had been personally lobbying Prime Minister John Key and his Government for five years to make a meaningful response to the threats posed by a warming atmosphere.

[…] “I’ve been trying impartially to deal with National. I’ve met with John Key around this a number of times, and really I held the hope that I and groups that I’ve been involved with would be able to get National to see sense.”

[…] Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said New Zealand was doing its fair share to reduce emissions and that the onus was on local councils to respond to the effects of climate change such as sea level rise.

Mr Mills said: “For me that was the end. I thought ‘I’ve got to stand up and be counted now’.

“I think that it is morally reprehensible for any country to shirk its responsibilities in this area.

“Furthermore I think it makes no economic sense as we know green industry will be one of the biggest growth opportunities of our time.”

So how do we succeed in motivating Key & Co to act, when years of effort by Mills and others has been rebuffed? There are three potential approaches.

The first is to recognise that there are genuine bluegreens already present in the National caucus and the wider party. The Bluegreen brand is a National brand, presented as the party’s “advisory group on environmental issues”. However, if you look at Bluegreen activities over the last few years you will find it hard to view them as anything other than a fig leaf, at best a rubber stamp for policy made elsewhere.

But there are National MPs and party members who really are green as well as blue, who do “get” the climate issue and understand the real risks the country faces. They need to be cultivated — encouraged to push the issue in the corridors of power, even if confronted by the same intransigence that Philip Mills encountered. Bluegreen MPs have to feel empowered within their caucus.

If they are to do that then they will need support. That will have to come in two forms.

The first is already under way, albeit in a rather low key manner. Alan Mark and the Wise Response initiative have shown the way. It’s time for the scientists and public intellectuals of New Zealand to knock on John Key’s door and refuse to take no for an answer. The Royal Society of NZ, the Prime Minister’s science adviser, the universities, and business leaders like Philip Mills now have to redouble their efforts. NZ’s intellectual leadership needs to stand up and make a powerful case for the cabinet to base climate policy on a realistic assessment of the risks. The lazy demonisation of all things green by senior National figures has to be countered by relentless rationality from those best equipped to deliver it.

Ultimately, it is voters who decide the future governments of NZ. Public opinion on the importance of climate policy will depend on both the leadership given by political parties — including National — and on the development of grass roots support for action. The Climate Voter initiative may not have had much impact on the final vote in this election, but it did provide a powerful demonstration of how the issue could be made to gain traction despite political and media indifference.

To make progress on climate issues there must be a concerted and non-partisan effort to put climate action high up on the political agenda. We have to move Key, English and Joyce from their pernicious “fast follower” stance into at least a middle of the (international) road position on emissions reductions, achieved through an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax which actually incentivises real reductions in NZ, the creation of carbon offsets through tree planting and land use change, and a serious effort to prepare the country to adapt to the warming, weather extremes and sea level rise that are now completely unavoidable.

[What, lugubrious? Nick Cave? Never. Well, perhaps not never. Sometimes, certainly.]

  1. No, not that other Gareth. This one. []
  2. Disclosure: I am not a member of the Green Party, but have party voted for them in recent elections because I regard their climate and environment policies as the best on offer, and I have no problems with their stance on social justice issues. For the record, I have also voted for Labour and National on occasion over the last 18 years. []
  3. When I discussed climate issues with a (largely sympathetic) National MP a couple of years ago, the response to my criticism of the gutting of the ETS was “well, we could have got rid of it…” []

73 thoughts on “Where do we go but nowhere?”

  1. and with signals that they intend to modify the Resource Management Act to make it easier to drill, mine and pollute,
    and build up.
    The back yard is where environment matters to voters.
    Key’s philosophy is maximum engagement with the world for maximum economic activity : “New Zealand needs to remain open, efficient and welcoming to foreign capital, students, tourists, people coming to live here. Engaging in that trading world is what is going to make us wealthy. New Zealand is going to be better. I think it’s already better. It’s a more interesting place being multicultural.”
    The Greens are an allie in this respect.

      1. “The Green Party is what it is because that’s what its members want it to be, and as it is arguably the party most accountable to its membership for policy development and candidate selection, that’s entirely appropriate2.”
        So how do you explain the fact that the membership is so far left? Is it because joining the Green Party makes you left or left-wingers joining the Green Party make it left? I’d put my money on the latter.
        What’s poor old David Hay doing hanging upside down on the Daily Blog (like the Middle Ages).

        1. JH. I agree the Greens lean quite left and obviously they attract left leaning people. Leftists are generally sceptical of market solutions to every problem, and believe more in regulation. This set of beliefs forms together as a group with the Greens, and is less compatible with right leaning parties.

            1. AndyS. Well the extremists in the photos don’t help. However the Communist Party of NZ probably has a membership of about a dozen people.

              Capitalism is the problem in a way. The very free market, deregulated capitalism that gained ascendency in the 1980s is incompatible with the sorts of regulatory controls needed to make any difference to climate change.

              You have a war of ideologies here between middle ground moderates on the economy and the market fundamentalists. I don’t think even the Greens want Russian Communism. I’m not sure how this is going to end, but if we do nothing, and the planet gets ruined I know who I will be blaming.

          1. There is more to it than that. The Greens approach issues with a preprogrammed world view that isn’t scientific (rooted in biology, genetics, ecology) but rather stemming from a raft of other ideologies (critical white studies, anti racism).
            Take house prices and immigration: Gareth Morgan says it’s obvious (“a picture[graph] paints a thousand words”) as does the Savings Working Group, as does Treasury, The Greens on the otherhand “assure” us that isn’t the case. This is a Green Party that doesn’t recognise limits to growth (except out there and not here).

            There is a big

            1. Jh you make yourself look foolish saying the Greens aren’t scientific. As an environmental party they are certainly based around science, more than any other parties.

              What is wrong with being anti racist?

              However I agree with you that the Greens views promoting high levels of immigration are strange. There obviously have to be some upper limits on immigration or you get inflation and the country just gets overwhelmed.

              I don’t oppose some moderate immigration but it needs to be sensible. I don’t understand the Greens thinking unless it is sympathy for refugees etc. But you could do that within a sensible immigration policy.

            2. The assumptions of the social justice wing of the Green Party are straight out of the Sociology department and at odds with the new evolutionary psychology . They can’t both be right.

            3. jh, I disagree. Actually traditional social science values of social justice are roughly compatible with recent evolutionary theories on moral values. Evolutionary theory is finding that altruism and cooperation are in our genes, as well as self interest. These are not choices they are all in our natures.

      2. nigelj
        Get real the RMA reform isn’t just about dairying and National Parks.
        The construction industry has grown by 10,000 firms since 2002. The effects of population growth (one of the highest rates in the OECD) are felt by Kiwis where they live their environment. By their stance on immigration and house prices the Greens are National’s useful fools. In practice denser living means infill and building up (loosing sun, loosing garden) if it isn’t denser living then it is sprawl (they praise Houston Tx).

        1. Jh. I’m not sure where I referred to the RMA?

          I agree NZ doesn’t need population growth. Or immigration beyond replacing people who leave the country.You are preaching to the converted there.The world is not short of people.

  2. I have to disagree with you on this, Gareth. The Greens’ social and economic policies are very decidedly left-wing, and not palatable to a large proportion of NZers, even if they happen to be concerned about environmental matters. I think there is actually quite a large constituency for people who want to see a sensible approach to the environment combined with generally centre-right economic and social policy. I don’t believe National’s economy vs environment dichotomy for a second, any more than I believe the idiots who claim that the only way to tackle climate change (if it exists) is to trash the economy.

    I will be signing up to a bluegreen party, maybe even stand as a candidate. That’s the beauty of MMP – even 10 or 12 seats for a new party (assuming that it gets most of its support from existing National voters) would be enough to force a coalition. The bottom line for such a party would be strong action on climate change, so if National wanted to form the government, they would have to change their tune.

    Watch this space…

    1. I’ll make two points: first, it is certainly true that by most measures the Green Party is a left-of-centre party, as are most green parties around the world. That may well turn off some voters, but that doesn’t mean that the GP should change (unless its membership wants it to). My main argument is that the creation of a bluegreen party, even with the redoubtable CTG on board, is not the best way to move climate policy forward in the near term. Ultimately, of course – as I say in the post – all parties will have to have green policies.

      The second point I’d make is that what is defined as “centrist” in NZ is (IMHO) to the right of the centre as it is defined in most western democracies (except the US). The move to free markets in NZ in the 80s was quicker and more comprehensive than almost anywhere else – certainly much further than in the countries where the idea became politically mainstream – the US and the UK. That, and the fact that no subsequent government has rolled back the reforms to any significant extent, means that policies that would be regarded as mainstream or wishy-washy left in Europe are derided here as being extreme socialism.

      As an aside: years ago, when Ian Ewan-Street was a Green Party candidate (soon to be MP), he spent a long time on the phone with me during which I put your/Gareth M’s bluegreen argument to him. He ran me through the social justice parts of their policy platform, and there was little I could really object to. So I’d be interested to see which parts of Green policy you find so objectionable… 😉

      Of course, Ewan-Street went on to join the Nats…

      1. Actually, the main disagreement I have with the Greens is their objection to GMOs and nuclear power, both of which are (globally at least) going to be essential parts of the picture in a sustainable economy. But there are other aspects of their policy that I don’t like either. It is possible to fix the power market without resorting to nationalisation, for example. And don’t even get me started on their approach to Te Tiriti.

      2. Rather than create a new BlueGreen party, the obvious solution to me would be to fix the Labour Party so that it has broad NZ appeal and can form a viable coalition with the Greens.

        Given current showing, this might be quite a way off though

  3. There’s quite an interesting history of the NZ Greens here

    The ideas of the Values Party of the early 1970s would be considered fairly radical by many today

    One major problem with this Blue-Green idea is that there is no political party that has entered parliament since the introduction of MMP in 1996 without a constituency MP. Both current “list only” parties (Green and NZ First) had electorate MPs at their inception.

    Internet-Mana and Conservatives spent $4.5 million of declared electoral spending during this campaign, with zero MPs to show for it. So starting a new party in NZ under the current MMP rules, without coat-tailing, is a very risky venture.

    1. I don’t see it happening, especially if it’s around a specific issue the outcomes of which are almost all determined by non-domestic actions. A new and improved ACT might be nice – a classically liberal party but with weaker priors assigned to the relative likelihoods of govt vs market failures – might still be able to attract urban liberals. Wellington Central, Ilam… that sort of thing. (Probably somewhere in Auckland… but I don’t know much about Auckland.) I guess I’m thinking an Oliver Hartwich party rather than a Roger Kerr party.

      1. You might have seen Act’s David Seymour on Prime TV’s backbenchers on Wednesday. He was definitely using a different set of “priors” to the old guard (don’t you Bayesian guys ever sleep!? )

          1. No need to apologise. I was just having a chuckle

            The latest backbenchers show isn’t up on their website yet

            Give it a day or two, maybe
            I thought Seymour handled the panel extremely well for a new MP. Most of the show was about partnership schools though
            Just a bit at the end about climate which was a follow up to the “climate marches”

            They interviewed a “representative” selection of Green oriented people in Wellington for their opinions on climate change, and whether they were concerned, or not.

            When asked what he was doing about climate change, David Seymour responded that he had given Julie-Ann Genter a ride home from a meeting in his car, thus taking one car off the road for the day. That one got a few well-deserved laughs from the normally Act-hostile audience

  4. I think the argument runs something like this:

    (1) – the scale issue: climate policy is one small part of overall policy, ie non-climate policy >> climate policy. (ie all of NZ’s health, and education, and pensions, and welfare, and justice, and the legal system, and defence, and foreign affairs, and so on, taken together, are far larger than the issue of NZ’s climate policy).

    (2) – the choice issue: if you are part of the broad consensus sometimes derided as “neoliberal” by its opponents*, and also mainstream on climate change, you are forced to make a trade-off**, since the parties of the left are not cool with liberalism, and the parties on the right drag their heels on climate change. This is Gareth Morgan’s point, I think.

    (3) – outcome: given the trade off in (P2), and given the scale issue in (P1), you vote centre-right. To me, that’s the rational outcome of the choice issue and the scale issue. Gareth M’s point is that to get climate policy going forward you need the scale issue to work in favour with the choice issue, not in opposition to it.

    *The word “neoliberal” is a bit like the phrase “politically correct” – it’s common among opponents and seems to summarise some currents in policy, but it’s seldom used by those in the areas central to the thing itself – you don’t hear economists or senior policymakers refer to ideas as “neoliberal”.

    **Obviously if you’re not mainstream about economic liberalism then you might not feel this tension, in which case (2) doesn’t apply to you. (In which case you don’t need to reply to this comment.) But given the vote we’ve just had, it’s clear that most people are fairly mainstream regarding the benefits of economic liberalisation, fiscal responsibility, the current mixture of markets and govt intervention etc.

    1. That’s a pretty good summary, Dave. The problem with a monolithic National block on the (centre-)right is that you only have one choice if you don’t like the socio-economic policies of the left, regardless of how you feel about issues like climate and the environment.

      Given that we have an MMP system, it makes sense to have as many choices on offer as possible. Coalition government isn’t half as scary as National likes to make out, and in fact is likely to reflect the views of a much greater proportion of the electorate than a single party ever can.

    2. “But given the vote we’ve just had, it’s clear that most people are fairly mainstream regarding the benefits of economic liberalisation, fiscal responsibility, the current mixture of markets and govt intervention etc.”

      Hmmm, maybe. But consider that only 29% of elegible voters were what you call “most people”, ie who voted for the National party.

      1. You don’t get to count all the non-voters as implicit supporters of your favourite team, Cindy… the Nats might be able to mount an argument that all those non-voters were obviously so satisfied with the current direction that complacency, rather than alienation, was the reason for their non-participation. Since these folks didn’t actually vote, it’s pure speculation to imagine how they would have voted, if they had.

        Of those who did express a preference, a considerable numerical majority voted in favour of the broad liberal consensus (broad base low rate taxes, openness to trade, tax/GDP ratio in the around 30%, state support of education, health, welfare, superannuation…) NZ has had for decades. Support for that broadly liberal approach would include National’s share, plus ACT’s, plus the Conservatives, plus maybe half of Labour and some random level of support from the NZ First party.

        But basic point is this: just as it would be dodgy for Steven Joyce or John Key to claim that non-votes were really National votes, so it’s dodgy for you to claim that silence is dissent.

  5. Interesting article, and my feeling is this government are weak on the climate change issue due to their basic ideological positioning. Nationals basic ideology is strongly free market capitalism, or “market fundamentalism” and they are therefore very hostile to regulation or intervention. Obviously there is a range of views within National, but this is the dominant leaning. ACT are extremely hostile to regulation.

    You can only reduce emissions with things like the ETS or some form of regulatory control so the ideologies are completely at war. The climate sceptics are probably mainly market fundamentalists afraid of any government control. This is the heart of the whole issue.

    The government only accepted the ETS because it is a semi market / semi regulatory solution. Only problem is it doesn’t work.

    The Greens understand this. Their primary concern is the environment, so obviously they will seek a social and economic ideology compatible with this, hence their left leaning interventionist position. This makes them completely incompatible with a strongly right wing party.

    It would be nice if National came further to the centre and took on board the fact that markets don’t always have all the answers.

    1. I don’t accept that “market fundamentalists” are afraid of any government control.

      They just want the right kinds of control

      Regulations and international standards enable us to trade freely because there is a set of rules to play by. ISO standards and similar are a case in point.

      If the entire world agreed to a CO2 price, then the free market guys would probably be OK with this, because the playing field would be level.

      The problem is that this is unlikely to happen.

      1. As another example, there was some recent outrage from the populist papers in the UK about EU vacuum cleaner regulations (the eyes are glazing over but stay with me if you can)

        Richard North of the eurosceptic blog EUReferendum.com was arguing that this was actually a good thing, because it encourages energy efficiency and reduced the need for peak load power stations

        I don’t know he is right but from a guy who has been a vocal climate sceptic I thought this was an interesting angle

      2. “If the entire world agreed to a CO2 price, then the free market guys would probably be OK with this, because the playing field would be level. ” …. indeed Andy.
        Now if you could perhaps ask the rest of the free market guys to accept this and work together for once with the other side of the political spectrum to achieve this goal, then we might actually have a chance at cracking this matter.
        Even the most hardened neo-liberal will concede to the laws of physics in the end. (with a grudge perhaps) And putting a price on Carbon that stimulates all of us to move away from FF to our best abilities is simply acknowledging the laws of physics and the findings of climate science. The wise guys among the neo-liberals have acknowledged this by now and investment is definitely leaving the FF industries as we speak. Those neo-liberals who still applaud (and fund) Heartland and Co. are backing themselves into an ever smaller corner.
        Its time for the NAT government to wake up to the leadership they need to play in this now.

      3. AndyS. Market fundamentalists tend to prefer as few regulations as possible. However clearly there is a range of views.

        Sometimes regulation can force innovation.There is a good history of this around the automobile industry.

        I agree accepting a global market price for carbon is very hard. The whole ETS concept seems silly to me to be honest.

        In my view countries should simply regulate emissions with more direct controls as with other environmental issues. Each country should do this in their own way as long as it meets agreed global reduction goals. The other alternative is a carbon tax which can also be country specific.

  6. I voted Green purely because they backed a carbon tax; according to Jim Hansen, a progressive carbon tax, with the proceeds paid back to the public, is the best method of getting a political consensus on reducing emissions. Others consider that the only way to cut back on fossil fuel use is to develop energy sources that are cheaper, whether that be solar, other renewables, or nuclear, rather than trying to tax or subsidise the playing field so it slopes away from carbon sources. That would seem to be true, if China now has higher CO2 emissions than the US and the EU combined, and forty percent of Chinese emissions come from making stuff for export. This would tie in with National’s position, that we can’t do anything about climate without a comprehensive international agreement, allowing climate know-nothings like Gerry Brownlee ( or ACT ) to sing in harmony with guys like Tim Groser, who at least have read the science. Meanwhile the left agree that the climate is a problem, but are split every which way on what to do about it.
    In the States, climate was very polarised; John McCain, who said a few sensible things when he wanted to be president, has swung into line with the Republican party ignoranti and their fossil fuel funders. The Democrats, though espousing climate action, have mostly been doing their best to hound nuclear power into an early grave, even though American reactors make more than three quarters of the zero carbon power there. In Australia, the Abbot government is keen to get rid of all the ‘green crap’ subsidies. They’ve made a few favourable remarks about nuclear ( as did John Howard years ago ), but are unlikely to do anything about it while there’s still coal to be dug or gas to be fracked. And the Conservative government in the still-United Kingdom, self-proclaimed ‘the greenest government ever’, has been putting money behind wind, solar and nuclear, but has a bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to opening new airports, motorways, and gas wells. It’s a hard road finding the perfect politician.

    1. ‘… American reactors make more than three quarters of the zero carbon power there..’ Another lie from the nuclear shill – it’s only about sixty percent. Sorry.

    2. I find it hilarious when people start a discussion about “green crap” subsidies, when they completely ignore the “black crap” subsidies that are currently in place. Around US$500bn a year goes into subsidising fossil fuels.

      Nuclear vs renewables is an easy argument to win. The costs of nukes are so high that renewables walk all over them. And as the price of renewables comes down, that gap will get bigger. Edit: a recent analysis put new solar/wind at 50% of the cost of nuclear when it comes to tackling climate change.

      But on a wider note, let’s get a discussion going around the country – we could start with a “three Gareths Tour”: Renowden, Hughes and Morgan. Maybe there’s some more Gareths who could join you?

      1. The Agora Energiewende paper doesn’t model how to minimise CO2 emissions, it models how to minimise costs in a hypothetical grid where half the power comes from gas and the other half either from solar/wind or from nuclear. It bases nuclear costs on a single data point – the agreed price in the UK for the first reactor to be built there in twenty years.( The agreement also included a clause that that price would be reduced if another EDF project, at Sizewell, goes ahead.) This is compared to the reducing feed-in tariffs for PV and solar in Germany, but since feed-in tariffs were removed for PV systems over 10 MW, installation of these plants has ceased. In China, the feed-in tariff for nuclear power is 7 cents US per kWh, lower than wind and about half as much as PV gets.
        A grid that still gets fifty percent of its power from fossil fuels will not come anywhere near achieving the carbon cuts we need. Gas is not the only way to cope with variable demand: France has more hydro for balancing its nuclear baseload than either Germany or the UK, but it also does load following with its current nuclear fleet, and third generation reactors now being built are designed to do so at higher ramp rates. The hypothetical Agora grid needed about five times as much renewable capacity and twice as much gas capacity to match the same demand as their proposed nuclear/gas one. If they scaled up to match the existing 90 percent fossil free French grid, they would need either massive amounts of very cheap energy storage, which is about as unlikely as affordable carbon capture and storage, or curtailment of the renewables to an extent that would very negatively affect the price scenario they give. Even then there would be powerless periods, especially in winter. In actual practice Germany has been reducing gas use, for cost and strategic reasons ( i.e. they don’t like Putin having them over a barrel.) Instead they’re building fast ramping lignite plants, and making a virtue out of how efficient they are. They’ll probably have to start subsidising them, too, to make sure the lights stay on – more black crap.

  7. A blue-green party would have to be more than alt-green.
    It would have to establish a name for clear logic in anaysis and presentation rather than the rhetoric, appeal to emotion etc on Frogblog :

    Over the last couple of weeks Labour has suggested immigrants are causing our housing crisis and that we should cut the numbers of immigrants coming in, NZ First has suggested too many unskilled migrants are coming and taking our jobs and National wants us stop those boat people. All this adds up to unhelpful and potentially stigmatising conversation.

    I wonder how Penjun and his family and all the other migrants like them are feeling in NZ right now.

    Jan Logie

  8. John Tamihere: Under Helen Clark the party was captured by academics and tertiary-educated leaders of a union movement that never worked a shop floor. They concentrated on identity politics and controlled the party not on the great economic issues, but on whether you were gay, Maori, feminist, bisexual, etc. … hey have driven people like myself out of the conversation and out of contributing to the party. They have lost connection with middle New Zealand and, particularly, men.
    and then Greens are the same.

  9. While we argue as to which colour to paint the deck chairs on the Titanic, here’s George Marshall on his book “Don’t Even Think About It: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change”:

  10. Here are excerpts from a recent article by Marshall, from behind a paywall:

    Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel prize in economics for his research on the psychological biases that distort rational decision- making. One of these is “loss aversion”, which means that people are far more sensitive to losses than gains. He regards climate change as a perfect trigger: a distant problem that requires sacrifices now to avoid uncertain losses far in the future. This combination is exceptionally hard for us to accept, he told me.

    Kahneman’s views are widely shared by cognitive psychologists. As Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University says: “A psychologist could barely dream up a better scenario for paralysis.”

    Our response to climate change is uncannily similar to an even more universal disavowal: unwillingness to face our own mortality, says neuroscientist Janis Dickinson of Cornell University in New York. She argues that overt images of death and decay along with the deeper implications of societal decline and collapse are powerful triggers for denial of mortality.

    There is a great deal of research showing that people respond to reminders of death with aggressive assertion of their own group identity. Dickinson argues that political polarisation and angry denial found around climate change is consistent with this “terror management theory”. Again, there is a complex relationship between our psychology and the narratives that we construct to make sense of climate change.

    The systems that govern our attitudes are just as complex as those that govern energy and carbon, and just as subject to feedbacks that exaggerate small differences between people. The problem itself is far from perfect and the situation is not hopeless, but dealing with it will require a more sophisticated analysis of human cognition and the role of socially shared values in building conviction.

  11. I agree with Gareth Morgan that because they have positioned themselves to the left of Labour they can never be mainstream and will remain as a ‘ginger group’ who work from the sidelines. Their policy on rivers would close down a large part of our dairy industry and is that going to get traction in New Zealand? If they managed to get 20% of the voters sympathy with only the extreme left they could do really well in the center but they need to get real with policies that will work with industry..

  12. I agree with Gareth Morgan that because they have positioned themselves to the left of Labour they can never be mainstream and will remain as a ‘ginger group’ who work from the sidelines. Their policy on rivers would close down a large part of our dairy industry and is that going to get traction in New Zealand? If they managed to get 20% of the voters sympathy with only the extreme left they could do really well in the center but they need to get real with policies that will work with industry..

    1. Bob, you are merely begging the question, i.e. assuming what you need to prove.

      Who says that our rivers, lakes and “clean green” image should be sacrificed for the dairy industry? Why should eternal economic growth be held out as attainable, let alone desirable?

      Isn’t “get real with policies that will work with industry” just a plea for continued wilful ignorance, and to try to deny the inevitable?

      After all, the “extreme left” of last century is just the “common sense” of today – if you don’t believe me, go read The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels that so terrified 19th-century industrialists, with its call for the free education of children and the abolition of child labour…

      1. Interestingly in this country there’s now a strong alliance between greens and farmers, both of whom oppose the mining industry’s unfettered access to absolutely everywhere, including some of our most productive agricultural land.

        And Naomi Klein has much to say about the unrealistic and self-defeating nature of ‘centrism’ in her new book.

        All of our western societies, with the possible exception of the US, are unfeasible and hopelessly-unrealistic socialist utopias by 19th Century standards, and the Great Reaction since Thatcher now sees us with yesterday’s lunar-Right ratbags having now completely overwhelmed whatever meaningful content there might have been in the idea of ‘Conservatism’.

        Simplistic pendulums based on a distorted spectrum of ‘acceptable’ contemporary opinion are hardly a useful form of political analysis…

        1. Bill, I’m currently reading Naomi Kleins new book “This Changes Everything”. It is fairly compelling and a good critique of the problems with the neoliberal Thatcherite economic model.

          I’m a bit of a “centrist” but the book has some good points. But I would argue centrism is pretty much compatible with many of her views.

          It is a case of defining what a more environmentally sustainable version of capitalism would really look like. Nobody is suggesting a return to the state owning absolutely everything, so if you define that as one extreme in the debate most of us are somewhere towards the centre.

      2. Rob Taylor wrote: “The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels that so terrified 19th-century industrialists, with its call for the free education of children and the abolition of child labour…”

        But those calls were not unique to communists or even the left. Mill, among others, argued for the diffusion of education. Things that were unique to communism and the hard left – the socialisation of the means of production and the labour theory of value – proved dead ends. Even if voters get into that sort of thing for a while, they soon change their minds. Which is why we don’t see communism as a significant feature of the political landscape anywhere rich or happy.

        In democracies, you need to convince the median voter/median MP, and maintain their support over time. That’s how it works, and how it will keep working.

        1. …and why we’re achieving precisely nothing on the climate front. And in managing to live in a sustainable way on the single planet we possess. If you want to define that as ‘working’ we’re going to need another term that means ‘yields useful results’.

      3. Rob is spot on. I think the so called “centrists” have simply failed to grasp the severity of our current “exploit the planet for today’s spoils, no matter the long term consequences” mantra. Hence river protection features well under wringing a few more tons of milk powder from the land.

        And lets face it, the people are not to blame as our oh so populist press, thanks to the profit driven corporate ownership of the same, regurgitates what the masses would perhaps like to hear as this sells the advertisements that allows them to rake in the money.

        The fact society has sold its voice to Mephisto (with small remnants of public radio thankfully hanging in there) is possibly the most stupid development that has befallen society. It produces the perfect sump in which theater politics are played and public opinion is prevented by skillful spin to drift into the oh so dangerous territory of recognizing matters as they really are….

          1. Your claim that green belongs to the left wing is based on the observation that markets and profit motivation speeds up environmental degredation, whereas the left slow these things down. The same could be said for the black death.

            1. Here’s a question. What is most important: the wages from the tourist industry or the CO2? The Tourist industry isn’t essential to survival. Why don’t the Greens suggest closing it down?
              Social justice and the environment are intertwined but not always in a win:win way.

  13. Oh No! Iconoclastic-motorcycling-windfall-billionaire-philanthropist-economist can’t find a political party that matches his idiosyncratic policy preferences! Existential angst! If only those “socialist”(/”dirty hippie”) Greens (and everyone else) just agreed with my brilliant yet heterodox analysis of climate change politics in New Zealand!

    It’s as if Gareth Morgan has only just become aware of the “aggregation of policies” problem. To be electable, political parties have to ‘aggregate’ together a portfolio of varied policies that appeal to different interests. Didn’t the rest of us realise when we first were old enough to vote that no party represented all our diverse policy preferences? And that our vote was about deciding which of our preferred policies were most important to us?

    Besides it’s been tried. There was a Progressive Green Party in the 1996 election. It got 0.26% of the vote and disbanded. Natural experiment concluded. Doesn’t Gareth Morgan remember current political history?

    Gareth Morgan has just lost heaps of mana in my book. The water melon jibe is a dogwhistle and is pretty much unforgiveable. It is also inconsistent for someone who claims he is trying to seriously discuss policy issues.

    1. I put that bastard in charge of my Kiwi Saver fund ( since he’d eventually concluded in his climate change book that yes, it is happening ), and he’s stuck some of it into Solid Energy and a couple of oil companies. When I wrote to bitch about it they linked me to this –
      ‘…Alcohol is another grey area. There is no doubt that booze is destructive when abused, but most of us have enjoyed a drink over dinner, or at a barbecue, or at wedding, and who’s to say that’s wrong? The same goes for fast food restaurants and soft drink companies. Too much fatty food and sugar is bad for you, but can we really damn a company for serving up what customers want?

      It doesn’t end there. Following a strictly ethical investment strategy would require you to reject most energy, mining and auto companies (for their contribution to global warming), food and beverage companies (due to palm oil use and animal testing), internet and media companies (on invasion of privacy and questionable corporate ethics), multinationals (exploitation in emerging markets) and pharmaceutical companies (all of the above and then some).

      What you’d be left with would be a bunch of solar energy and wind turbine stocks, which incidentally, have been terrible performers over the past five years.

      The point here is that ethics are very much in the eye of the beholder. And while ethical funds are suitable for a certain type of investor, we don’t think it’s a fund manager’s role to decide which products and services are good for you, or good for the planet. We are investment professionals, not the moral police.

      At GMI, as part of our Responsible Investment Policy, we don’t invest in companies primarily engaged in the sale of arms, tobacco, or gambling services. We don’t expect our clients to agree one hundred per cent with this policy, but it’s there for all to see, and it’s consistent with our core values.

      At the end of the day, our primary commitment is to look after our clients’ money with due care and skill. And while social and environmental issues are a consideration, we don’t let them dictate our investment decisions. Otherwise, we’d have a very short list of investment opportunities.’

      Anyone know of a fund manager that doesn’t do coal, at least?

      1. Investments require some kind of capitalist system in order to return an income stream. This also implies something better than the zero growth proposed by the Values Party.

        Much of the Auckland property boom could be put down to Chinese speculation. there are property bubbles in China too

        Chinese invest in property because a communist country doesn’t provide them with many other investment opportunities.

        1. “Chinese invest in property because a communist country doesn’t provide them with many other investment opportunities.” Pardon me?? Perhaps you will re-think that one. I doubt the new rich of China are making their mammon speculating on property.

          In fact, it is the production and sales of the worlds consumer goods and the investment made into the companies that produce these goods that is creating the cash flow. Heard of the Alibaba PO lately?



          1. Are these investments available to the Chinese public via asset funds like we have in NZ? I do know there is a huge property bubble in China in all the big centres.

            Anyway, regardless of that, in order to make a return on your investment, you need economic growth. If you have zero growth, you get zero dividend on your investments.

            1. Anyway, regardless of that, in order to make a return on your investment, you need economic growth. If you have zero growth, you get zero dividend on your investments.

              Andy: Since you are bragging about having had some university grade mathematics in your past you will perhaps realize that continued economic growth (i.e. exponential growth) is an absurdity in a world limited to a single planet.

              You will surely have played with a spreadsheet to investigate the “value” of a single dollar invested at the birth of Christ at 4% interest…
              (hint: how many solid golden planets the size of Earth will you need to bring along at the current gold price to resemble the value of that 1 dollar at 4% for 2000 years??)

              As we are nearing the time when physical growth runs into the limits of energy supply and ecological carrying capacity you will need to get used to the fact that we need a new economic paradigm as betting the planet on the idea that we need continued economic growth is just plain silly once you play with the math for a second.

            2. Yes I understand that you want zero growth.
              My question is a different one. (Note that it is you that continue to raise straw person arguments and then accuse me of doing so)

              If you want zero growth then all investments under the publicly traded stock market paradigm are unethical.

              You could try different models, like coops for example

              Fonterra is a coop.

            3. Name a straw man argument I posed and detail what you mean by “straw man” in the argument.

              BTW your “all or nothing” mentality is really childish. An economy with an over all zero growth is not a stale economy. New ideas come and take over the place of the old. Investing into the stock market – or directly investing into businesses – is not unethical. A zero growth end game means zero growth on a global average. Have a look at the Islamic Banking system. Charging interest is deemed unethical, but investing into businesses certainly not.

              The world is a heck of a lot more intricate than your black versus white thinking would have it.

            4. The planet is probably heading towards zero growth or low growth. There is evidence it is already happening. We are coming up against limits in resources or at least the cheaper ones.

              You can deflect the process for some time if we discover a source of really cheap energy that enables a lot of recycling, but the bottom line is more cars and ever larger houses becomes harder to achieve.

              Growth comes up against constraints so will slow or go to zero. Or slower growth will be required to combat climate change.

              But gdp growth is just a crude output measure of quantities. There will still be massive advances in healthcare, electronics, etc. This will still be driven by investment. Investment would not slow or doesn’t have to slow as a variable even if growth is deliberately constrained.

            5. Thomas September 30, 2014 at 9:02 am
              Name a straw man argument I posed and detail what you mean by “straw man” in the argument.

              BTW your “all or nothing” mentality is really childish.

              So, as an example of your strawman arguments, you respond to my “all or nothing” mentality

              So I am somehow supposed to demolish the fact that I apparently have an “all or nothing mentality”, which I don’t

              In other words, you have asked me for evidence that you provide strawman arguments and then immediately respond with a strawman argument that I am supposed to respond to

            6. Andy, you have displayed an “all or nothing” attitude in every threat. You balk against wind farms because they don’t produce power ALL the time. You deride solar PV again, because it can’t solve ALL our energy problems and on and on. You constantly overlook the fact that our struggle for a sustainable future will rely on a whole set of solutions with wind and solar playing the important roles they can.
              The fact that Germany bulldozes villages to get access to dirty lignite sucks!

            7. The reason that the eco-village is being bulldozed for Lignite is because of the decision by German Greens to terminate the nuclear energy programme.

              The reason why they are doing this is because the eco-bling that litters their country isn’t capable of powering an industrial civilisation, and despite what the German greens say, most want the comforts of modern society and don’t want to return to a pre-industrial standard of living

            8. Andy here is your black and white thinking tripping you up again. We have been debating this so many times with no avail. The real question is: How much more lignite would the Germans need to consume each year if they did not have the ‘eco bling’ of solar and wind, which at times produces more than 1/2 of Germany’s electricity demand?
              We expressed this in coal train length (impressive if you calculate it) yet you will simply not see the significance of the contribution of solar and wind, even in a country with a mediocre wind resource and at 50 Deg of Northern Latitude… In comparison NZ has a much better resource of both.
              You also constantly ignore the benefit of the cost reduction in solar PV which has been driven to not a small extent by the expansion of production through the German investment.
              Get used to it: The “eco bling” is here to stay and will grow significantly as the cost of solar decreases further and smart consumer tech will enable society to utilize variable generation more efficiently.

  14. “To be electable, political parties have to ‘aggregate’ together a portfolio of varied policies that appeal to different interests. Didn’t the rest of us realise when we first were old enough to vote that no party represented all our diverse policy preferences?”

    Today Wayne Brittendon blamed Labours failure on their being too close to National (whereas) more to the left the Greens “held their ground”. That doesn’t suggest diverse policy perferences?

    “Besides it’s been tried. There was a Progressive Green Party in the 1996 election. It got 0.26% of the vote and disbanded.”

    I don’t think a clone of the Green Party would work, it would have to have an “X” factor. Objective analysis and a nonpartisan nature would be a good start.

  15. This is from Resilience.org

    when I joined the Green Party, I did so because I assumed this would be the party with an undeniable, indefatigable focus on environmental protection. Furthermore, also because of my research plus lengthy experience in environmental management and civil service, I had realized that environmental protection was all about stabilizing the human presence on the planet including the United States. I had realized that environmental protection entailed the establishment of a steady state economy.

    And really that’s common sense, no?

    Can you imagine my chagrin as the Green Party turned out to know quite little about environmental matters, less yet about natural resource management, and next to nothing about steady state economics? Worse, there didn’t seem to be much focus at all on the environment. The knowledge, passion, and focus was instead meted out to issues that I’m only going to describe, euphemistically, as “off center.” In other words it was a party for the disaffected of all sorts.


  16. John ONeill September 28, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    I put that bastard in charge of my Kiwi Saver fund ( since he’d eventually concluded in his climate change book that yes, it is happening ), and he’s stuck some of it into Solid Energy and a couple of oil companies. When I wrote to bitch about it they linked me to this

    what’s all this about “a smarter economy” from the Green Party (apart from harnessing hot air)?

Leave a Reply