It was guiltily good to read Bunny McDiarmid’s Greenpeace analysis of the Emissions Trading Scheme because it seems she and her colleagues have been struggling with exactly the same issues that the Green Party faced when deciding whether to vote for the legislation or not.
With the bill now law there’s a big risk that New Zealanders will now think the job’s been done. That would be a mistake.
I expect to see the Labour Party try to claim that it is sustainable and has dealt with climate change during the campaign. All the Emissions trading scheme does though is put in place a framework to start to deal with climate change, it does not actually deal with it. The Greens have developed a credible plan to face climate change but sadly we’re alone. Especially when it comes to setting targets and addressing the causes of climate change:
Greenpeace wants all political parties to set an emissions reduction target of 30 per cent by 2020 and develop policies to achieve it. This target is within the range of 25-40 per cent agreed to by developed countries – including New Zealand – at the Bali negotiations last year. To reach this target, New Zealand must deal with agriculture’s burgeoning emissions. Agriculture is the elephant in the room, except it’s a cow.
The agriculture sector must face up to the downsides of intensification and shift to low input, less intensive, smarter farming. New Zealand is ideally positioned to lead the world with low emission pastoral farming, but instead we’re seeing corporatisation and intensification. Greenhouse gas emissions from the use of nitrogen fertiliser alone now exceed all road transport emissions. This is having a huge impact, not only through rapidly rising emissions but also through increased water pollution and the erosion of the clean green brand…
National proposes an emission reduction target of 50 per cent by 2050. This is way off the mark. By 2050 we need to have our emissions down by 80 per cent. Nonetheless, we’d love to see how National plans to achieve this target, in light of its proposals for more roads, more coal and more gas. Meanwhile, Labour has declined to set any target whatsoever.
The way to identify whether a party is serious about facing up to global warming is simple: ask if it intends to do something tangible about reducing emissions in agriculture, transport and energy. If it favours more cows, more coal or more cars it also favours ignoring “a problem we can ignore”.
At no other time in history will humanity’s fate be so determined by decisions made today. It is this generation of leaders who will be held accountable, because the stakes are so high.