Jeanette’s question this afternoon on the Government’s claim to be the first carbon neutral country in the world resulted in the usual banter with the Michael Cullen, who was answering on behalf of the Prime Minister. Even National’s Nick Smith got in on the game, asking much the same as what many Green supporters have been thinking for some time now:
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How is it credible for her to maintain the façade of carbon neutrality, and world leadership in sustainability, when during the last 9 years emissions have increased by 14 percent, one of the highest rates in the developed world; when 75 percent of new electricity generation built has actually been thermal, resulting in the largest drop in the proportion of renewables of any Government in New Zealand history; and when the last 4 years has seen a massive loss of forest area and the first years of deforestation since records began in 1951?
Cullen blamed all those emissions on a growing economy. And as economic growth remains a sacred cow, we all politely moved on to the next question. Afterall we wouldn’t want to stop growing beyond the limits of our planet’s ability to cope.
The more interesting parliamentary question came later on and was from Sue Bradford, standing in for Jeanette, to Pete Hodgson, the Minister of Economic Development who was standing in for Jim Anderton, the Minister of Fisheries. (I suspect MPs had been re-enacting the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party earlier and all standing up and rotating seats). Sue initally asked a generic question about trade of fish with China. I thought she was likely to move on to talk about Maui dolphins which were also a topic of debate today*. But she actually followed up with this:
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister confirm that Talley’s Fisheries ships chilled, gutted fish to China for thawing, processing, and rechilling, only to ship it back to New Zealand for sale; and is that how the fishing industry contributes to the Prime Minister’s goal of carbon neutrality?
Hon PETE HODGSON: New Zealand fishing companies have been exporting to China for years, and a proportion of that product is inevitably processed further and onsold to Japan, North America, and Europe. That has been going on for some time in China and in any other continent in the world. Our fishing industries are international.
Sue Bradford: If shipping fish from New Zealand to China for processing, then shipping the fish back here to our supermarkets for retail sale is an example of his Government’s global trade agenda in action, then surely it is time to admit that the resulting carbon “fin print” of these fish, the race to the bottom on wages, and the threat to jobs here in New Zealand make the whole situation a disaster, not just for our country but for the planet?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Let me offer a different tack. I am the member of Parliament for Dunedin North. Cadbury’s and Gregg’s are both in my electorate. Both of those companies are food companies; they both import, then re-export products. That is the nature of trade.
No, it’s the nature of specific type of neo-liberal free trade. Really though, given our claimed high tech business environment, couldn’t we breed or train the fish just to swim over the China and at least save themselves one boat trip?
*Sorry to jump around so many topics. For more on the dolphin dilemma listen to this Checkpoint interview with marine scientist Steve Dawson.