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Another Climate Change Bunfight

Alison Jäppinen



Politicians Play the Blame Game
While other, more rational people were probably having a quiet drink at the pub or preparing dinner, I decided to go to a session hosted by the Environmental Defence Society with David Parker, the current minister for climate change, Nick Smith, the opposition spokesman for climate change; Green’s co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, and Peter Nielson, of the NZ Council for Sustainable Development.
I shouldn’t have bothered. The ‘new’ stuff to come out was a long tedious piffle-bicker about whether carbon trading would be best as a policy instrument to control our greenhouse gas quota, and whether ‘cap and trade’ would do the job better. To explain, carbon trading could be generated within New Zealand, or on a global market (which is more likely). This kind of trading would really just move the problem elsewhere, as big polluters buy carbon credits from those who pollute less. But this does not decrease the net amount of greenhouse gases belching into the global atmosphere. Carbon units are already being traded on the international futures market and speculators make money on the increasing scarcity value of carbon ‘credits’. And all the while, the planet continues to warm faster than ever. A little obscene, if you ask me. ‘Cap and trade’ has the advantage of New Zealand’s ability to set a cap on the extent of pollution by companies – and then being unable to go above it.
There was also some discussion about how hard it was to solve the problem of 49 per cent New Zealand methane production from sheep and dairy herds, which contribute a mere 10 per cent of GDP – less than tourism or manufacturing, by the way. It seems a no-brainer – any uni student can do the math – so, why can’t the Government?
There was also some debate as to whether West Coast foresters would get any subsidies for sustainable planting done before or after 1990. Yes, 1990, to the uninitiated, is the year greenhouse gas levels are benchmarked against – all countries which signed ‘Kyoto’ are obliged to pare their emissions back to that year.
True to form, Dave and Nick appeared to be dragging up stuff from the past – in a number of backwards-and-forwards sallies that rivalled Wimbledon. (Dave seemed to be slightly better at this than Nick).
Imagine being in a relationship with either one of them:
“May I remind Dr Smith of what he said in 1997….”
“At that time, the Government was trying to correct the blah-blah- blah forced upon it by the previous Labour government…”
To me, the ultimate climate change hypocrisy has always been Dave, Pete Hodgson and Helen deciding not to go ahead with any kind of carbon ‘tax’, after policy advisors had been working on just that for six years (or more). To add insult to injury, when questioned, Pete blamed it on his officials. Over the years, every time Pete gets into a tight spot, you will hear him blame it on someone else. I call it “doing a Hodgson”.
Although this little jaunt was called a seminar, it was really a debate. My pick is that Peter Nielson was very much the voice of reason. Of the politicians, Jeanette definitely won – she was, by far, the most forward-thinking of the three. Nick came second and Dave struggled into last place, with his sanctimonious pre-budget smuggery.