George Monbiot gives Yvo de Boer a serve

In a new Guardian video series entitled Monbiot meets…, George gives the United Nations chief climate change negotiator Yvo de Boer a serve, and asks if the Kyoto protocol is too little too late for the planet.

This version of the video is from

We all know now that a carbon tax would have been the simplest, least wasteful means of pricing the carbon externalities into the market. The only difficult part, particularly for politicians, would have been setting the price.

But the ideologues both here and abroad could not abide the thought of a market intervention as simple and elegant as a tax. No, we needed a much more expensive, intrusive, new market in our lives and the carbon tax was killed off.

Now the reality of an international carbon market is hitting home, while some players, including New Zealand, prevaricate, pointing to some of the waste and corruption in the market they insisted was created.

We have had 16 years of debate on this issue and almost no action. I am personally agnostic about which kind of market intervention is the best in the long run. What I care about is results, sooner rather than later. The massive paradigm shift required to avert the worst that anthropogenic global warming is threatening is going to create winners and losers regardless of how it is done. There will be spilled milk, and tears.

I was amused by Peter Dunne’s comments yesterday regarding the climate change select committee. It seems he got a somewhat different brief from John Key than Rodney Hide did. Let the fireworks begin!

62 Comments Posted

  1. bjchip Says:
    That’s simply NOT true.

    bj…when I say “NZ NEEDS to use coal for a period of time until we have been able to afford to bring green energy technologies on line” I am not suggesting it is the only option.

    I’m simply offering it as what I consider to be the best option for now.

    Not because I like coalfired energy. I hate it. But a consideration of where NZ is going leaves other less satisfactory options.

    Why consider coal? Because we have it available. It reduces our reliance on imported options. It buys us time, and saves us money WHILE WE INVEST IN TRULY GREEN ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE.

    1) Can we rely on hydro forever? No. The amount of hydro that can be built is finite. We cannot keep losing land to hydro. If we continue to have a growing population hydro will be insufficient and other alternatives will have to be found.

    2) Can our industries rely on solar, tidal or wind power? No. They are too intermittent. (But worthy nonetheless)

    3) Will gas (a cleaner option than coal) provide a better alternative to coal? No. It will run out.

    My thinking is this:

    Ultimately all hydro (baseload generation) HAS to be available for industries/hospitals that need 24/7 power. We also HAVE to have a backstop that can be brought online quickly to cover for seasons of low hydro.

    The real problem here is how to prevent coal becoming the 24/7 option – so available that our politicians never take on board the message of limiting population to match available green energy solutions.

    Obviously some prefer Kyoto as a means of achieving that aim, but I say Kyoto will just make us poor, and the poorer we are as a nation, the more likely we will fall back on coal anyway. Just like China. Just like India.

    I believe we need to embrace coal with strict guidelines and only as a gateway technology linked to a policy that takes us forward over the next 20 years toward a country that matches its population to that which generally consumes no more energy than it generates from green sources.

    10,000 solar water panels will take years to install, and much cash. Aim for 30,000 and it takes even longer. Start planning a tidal generation system now, and you won’t see much from it within 20 years.

    The same goes for all of the realistic green energies. They MUST be encouraged and planned for, but good things don’t happen overnight.
    Especially in the current economic climate.

    Somehow we have to have a plan to get us through the next 20 years of green energy developent by using fuels we don’t have to import.

  2. bjchip – Brownlee, English and Key want to pull coal from the ground and judging by the indecent haste and manner they have rung the changes over the past couple of days, they will.

  3. Getting back to the kyoto/energy issue…NZ NEEDS to use coal for a period of time until we have been able to afford to bring green energy technologies on line

    That’s simply NOT true.

  4. Keynesians would tell you it is a perfect time to be spending large. They don’t care whether it helps or hurts, as long as money velocity and supply increase.



  5. greenfly Says: – shouldn’t the two things (lowering our own total output and developing green technologies and lifestyles) go hand in hand? Haven’t the Greens advocated this all along?

    The problem is this:…those two things DO both need to occur (eventually)… but they don’t go hand in hand.

    What I mean is: If you are rich enough to choose alternatives (eg spend $30,000 on solar panels) then lowering total output is a possibility.

    However, if you are too poor (like NZ at the moment, because we are in a recession) then it’s the wrong time to spend up large to lower output.

    It might, however, be the right time to focus on stage 2, which is “developing green technologies and lifestyles”. (which is more about inventing, planning and voluntary attitude changing)

    We could certainly do this right now, while we are looking for ways to keep employment up, and at a time where we see garden centres doing huge business because many families realise it is long overdue to get some wholesome veg growing in the back yard.

    This would be a great time for the govt to encourage innovation through tax reductions etc.

    Getting back to the kyoto/energy issue…NZ NEEDS to use coal for a period of time until we have been able to afford to bring green energy technologies on line. Any such green energy effort has now (in my opinion) been delayed by 10 years because of the worldwide financial stuff, so lets use whatever cheap forms of energy we have (ignoring Kyoto) while we work towards a balanced policy of keeping our population at the level that does not exceed our green energy generation capacity.

    That should be possible over the next 20 years if we set it as a goal, but we wont ever get there if we continue with Kyoto.

    Why not? Two reasons:

    1) The majority will resent Kyoto and turn their backs on what they see as heartless green terrorism.

    2) Kyoto is just a way of sucking megadollars out of NZs economy. It is pretty clear how much good that will do us.

  6. I don’t think they want to hurt poor people. It’s just that they want to protect the planet, and end up putting the planet ahead of people.

    Which is ok sometimes.

    But now’s the wrong time in my opinion.

  7. Why do the Greens want to hurt poor people so much?

    How about “Socialists Truly For Utopia” or STFU for short.

  8. Meghan..sorry for any misunderstanding. I just feel that NZ is “too small and insignificant”, and that forcing us (the ordinary populace) to make token green gestures will in fact cost us so much that families genuinely will suffer.

    I’m predicting 10% unemployment by end of June next year, and I don’t think we can afford to take a risk on increasing that by wasting money on Kyoto, when in fact it is already too late.

    Not too late for the planet maybe. But definitely too late to change the rest of the world in such a way that the climate could in fact be saved. (even if they did/might listen to us)

    Our efforts need to be focussed on our own economic survival. Being green is secondary to putting food into peoples mouths.

    I agree about green technologies being a valuable way of seeking to boost industry/employment. I just don’t agree that punitive methodologies like Kyoto have anything to offer.

    Maybe they would if we were at the beginning of a 20 year economic boom time, but thats not the cycle we are in for now.

    We really can’t do ANYTHING to change the massive pollution coming out of China and India, and we are not (and never were) the cause of it.

    We shouldn’t have to pay guilt money to ease someones conscience.

  9. “Scrambled up in these comment threads are the memes planted in the public mind by the professional deniers employed by fossil fuel companies(2). On the Guardian’s forums you’ll find endless claims that the hockeystick graph of global temperatures has been debunked; that sunspots are largely responsible for current temperature changes; that the world’s glaciers are advancing; that global warming theory depends entirely on computer models; that most climate scientists in the 1970s were predicting a new ice age. None of this is true, but it doesn’t matter. The professional deniers are paid not to win the argument but to cause as much confusion and delay as possible. To judge by the comment threads, they have succeeded magnificently.”

    That John Bishop who spread the meme that the Greens support for biofuels will cause millions to starve* works in PR……….

    You’d think he would know to check the details…………?

    The Panel. Afternoons Radio NZ

  10. greengeek : Exactly where did I advocate destroying our economy to combat climate change?

    There are huge economic possibilties when we take a good look at combating climate change. I have never advocated putting the environment above people and the need for jobs. What a stupid suggestion! How unsustainable would that be? And short-sighted? When if ever what we need is a truely sustainable and long-term solution to our environmental issues?

    It is possible to take a balanced view of the environment, community and economy – indeed, if we are to address the underlying issues that have caused climate change, it would be imperative to get these three factors functioning properly together.

    And if you think any part of my post is racist, then I suggest you read it again with an open mind and a sense of fairness. You run to so many conclusions it’s hard to know where you have actually got to.

    Strangely, considering the tone and misunderstanding of the first part of your post, I totally agree with the last three paragraphs.

  11. Meghan Says:
    The argument that somehow New Zealand should escape doing anything to curb climate change (because we are too ’small’ and ‘insignificant’)strikes me as both ignorant and absurd.

    It is dangerously idealistic to think that New Zealand SHOULD make big sacrifices to lead the world in paying “green” taxes when our economy is small, fragile, and we are entering an economic phase that could break our backs if we don’t focus on our people and families, BEFORE we focus on our air quality.

    It would be morally wrong to allow people to lose their jobs so that “cosy greenies” can FEEL that we are pulling our environmental weight. Especially when there is NOTHING in reality that New Zealand can do to stop whats happening to the worlds climate.

    As I’ve been saying for years…any REAL greenie has to put up and shut up, by creating “green” work for everyday people. If you can’t start a “green” company that helps ordinary kiwis pay their bills, then you will just have to put up with the pollution that comes from their current jobs and lifestyles.

    The rest of your diatribe seemed somewhat racist to me. Chinese air pollution is a product of rich countries actions? I don’t think so.

    Sounds like you don’t care about white people having jobs perhaps??

    The real challenge is to create an environment in NZ whereby every truly green-minded person is able to start up a cottage industry, employing as many people as they can.

    We need to get bikes back onto the roads, and super-lightweight innovative electric vehicles. We need huge incentives for any and every enterprise that produces technologies/equipment/products/jobs/accomodation/tourism that really does help build a green future.

    If that dream doesn’t become a reality every other green tax or trading scheme is just hot air designed to salve the consciences of the dreamers.

  12. The argument that somehow New Zealand should escape doing anything to curb climate change (because we are too ‘small’ and ‘insignificant’)strikes me as both ignorant and absurd.

    What are you advocating here, that the average New Zealander is worth more than a Kenyan? That we have more right to this earth that a Tahitian? That we should be allowed more of a share of the atmosphere than a French person?

    Maybe we are just entitled to more of our share because we are predominantly white, and affluent? I guess those poor people in China struggling to provide food, shelter and warmth for their families should just accept that climate change, which is a product of rich, developed countries, means they will have to go without. And those living in low-lying atolls in the Pacific, or Bangladesh, should just accept that they will have to leave their homes, their lands, and/or loss their lives because countries like New Zealand contributed to a problem that they refuse to take responsibilty for.

    I think New Zealand should do everything within its means to both mitigate the inevitable effects of climate change, and do everything possible to halt our country contributing and unfair proportion to the problem. Anything less is selfish, protectionist and inhumane.

  13. What IceBaby has been trying to say all along, with difficulty, is that he doesn’t believe in individual responsibility at all. He doesn’t think anything he does has any affect or value in the world, except maybe trolling on blogs. But he does that just for fun, because ultimately he just doesn’t matter.

  14. “The Greens advocate dancing about architecture in order to make it rain”

    ,,,and you advocate leaving your litter and trash wherever you go (on a national level) because YOUR little bit doesn’t make a difference.

    Big clue Icebaby. You don’t take responsibility for your part of this and YOU are one of the people causing the breakdown of society.

    Amorality and right-wing ideologies do seem to go hand-in-hand.

    I have less trouble with John Key’s “smiling assassin” act with ACT than with your arrogant amorality.

    Your attitude has seen no improvement with the change in name.


  15. >>You seem as evasive as the party you support

    They haven’t made any decisions around climate change, so I do not know what decisions you are referring to.

  16. >>Going into coalition and making arrangements for a ‘review’

    It makes sense to review policies put in place by a previous administration, especially policies that come with a high price ticket. The world isn’t going to end because of a review in little old New Zealand.

    Act got sufficient share of the vote to help form a government under MMP, and so get to implement some of their ideas. The Greens did the same thing under Labour. That’s democracy.

    The Greens chose their path.

  17. btw – Icebaby – yours is a question, not an explanation as requested. You seem as evasive as the party you support.

  18. greengeek – shouldn’t the two things (lowering our own total output and developing green technologies and lifestyles) go hand in hand? Haven’t the Greens advocated this all along?

  19. Going into coalition and making arrangements for a ‘review’ with a ridiculous climate-change denier like Rodney Hide – shallow and farcical enough for you?

  20. greenfly

    >>make such shallow, farcical decisions around the issue of climate change?

    What decisions are you referring to?

  21. frog…help me out here..

    what is the best way for NZ to contribute to a lowering of global environmental atmospheric damage?

    Obviously it has nothing to do with lowering our own total output (we are just too small).

    Surely it is more to do with leading in some other way.

    Legal structures?
    Treaties? (eg Kyoto??)

    My personal belief is that NZ has a chance to develop and encourage alternative TECHNOLOGIES and alternative LIFESTYLES.

    And thats about it.

    If we can’t find a way to foster such things in NZ then we are absolutely no use to the rest of the world at all. Thats why our recent rankings are such a condemnation. Instead of leading the world, we lag many of the European countries.

    With the correct advice I see National as being able to foster Green business.

    That’s why I was always so opposed to a left wing “green” bent. “Green” thinking is nothing to do with social policy, and ALL about developing green TECHNOLOGIES and lifestyles.

    What we need now is a strong attitude of fostering ANY and EVERY business that helps ordinary Kiwis to turn their homes, holiday homes and businesses into low-energy (renewable energy), low impact enterprises.

    We need a HUGE drive toward solar water heating in the North Island.

    We need a HUGE drive toward cycle priority on all roads.

    We need NO restrictions on homebuilt lightweight commuter vehicles.

    We need massive taxes on housewives taking their kids to after school activities in hydrocarbon vehicles.

    We need to MASSIVELY encourage businesses that help local communities find work and resources in ther local area.

    Goodbye Kyoto.

    Goodbye global focus.

    Hello local self-belief and local efforts (Goodbye RMA!!).

    We need to forget about the rest of the world and pull up our socks in whatever way best transforms our local lives into a sustainable format.

    We’ve become too much like LA – reliant on the car because we have to go beyond our local areas to find all the work and facilities we need for our families.

    It is time for our communities to turn inwards and see what needs to be done to make our local lives more complete.

    population control, better schools, better policing, more industry (not less!), more local farms, local pubs, malls etc etc etc.

    Only a lot more focus on local living will boost our international rankings and at the same time provide an example that is of interest to the rest of the world.

  22. Then the Order Paper came out this morning with all of the original terms of the committee we saw before except one – they will not be doing a review of the science.

    Well that would be one cheer for Key, at least. Except…

    Mr Hide, who will also sit on the committee, said as far as he was concerned the committee will get to look at the issue of the science theory behind climate change.
    He was pleased that [pseudo]sceptics would get a chance to have their views heard.

    So it looks like Hide might get everything he wants after all, terms be damned — possibly with the tacit backing of National and its support parties on the select committee.

  23. Thanks Icebaby – my opinion is that you gave and continue to give your support to an occified duplicitous self-serving party with ruinous ideology. Why can’t you see that? We should indeed ‘choose our battles wisely’ when faced with the problems we face – so why does your party make such shallow, farcical decisions around the issue of climate change? Explain please. With measurements and real data! I want to see science, not waffle! The Nat/Act/UF/Maori Government dance around the real issues like some drunken, 5 headed lout, it’s minds befuddled with self importance (drunk with power) 🙂

  24. >>why did you bother? it’s not as if your one vote made any meaningful difference.

    Like many, I like to participate in the democratic process. I accept that my vote doesn’t make any difference to the outcome.


    >>your flippy-flop-with-monotonous-regularity party, is hell bent on ignoring…etc…etc…

    Sure, you’re entitled to your opinion. Free speech is a good thing, yes?

    Meanwhile, when it comes to the problems we face, we should be choosing our battles wisely. We should take effective action.

    The Greens advocate dancing about architecture in order to make it rain. And then have the nerve to say to me “well at least we’re doing something!” The implication being that if I don’t dance about architecture in order to make it rain, I’m crazy.

  25. The reason you need to actually accept the numbers is to understand why New Zealand should bother with any climate change provisions. Our emissions are in the noise floor, and thus any change we make is insignificant.

    So why bother with climate change provisions – Because its the right thing to do.

    Did occur to me that the country one above us in the table in Wikipedia is Trinidad and Tobago, whose emissions are about 3% greater than ours. And they have a quarter of our population. Gee, if they could just get down to the average New Zealander’s emissions, wouldn’t that be something…

  26. Doing nothing because we are a small country would be similar to doing nothing when it was realised that CFCs were damaging the ozone.

    We should have done nothing then – since our impact was small – but we did (just happens that we are one of the worst affected).

    Who would have thought my hairspray would destroy the ozone!

    Maybe we should do nothing about cluster bombs and human rights.

    Climate change is probably caused by humans – we have to trust the scientists here – so it is our obligation is to do everything we can.

    But there is a business opportunity in every crisis.

    We should take the lead in carbon reduction and at the same time provide R&D incentives and get some good olde fashionedy kiwi number 8 ingenuity going to develop products and solutions we can sell to the world so when they realise they need ’em we’re there to sell it to ’em.

  27. IceBaby Says:
    December 9th, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    > Greenfly, I’m not sure why you jump to conclusions.

    > I voted for National.

    why did you bother? it’s not as if your one vote made any meaningful difference.

  28. Icebaby – Sapient’s previous scenario;
    ‘a redneck puts up his hand and says “but the NZ farmers dont have to pay”
    is a significant one. However, the stupid party you voted for, the party that has invited into it’s bed the medieval Act party, your flippy-flop-with-monotonous-regularity party, is hell bent on ignoring the obvious, delaying any meaningful action for as long as it’s string-pulling big business cronies say it should, and would dismiss the likes of the clear-thinking Sapient as a ‘out-of-touch socialist lefty’ One of their heads says ‘there will be minor changes only’. Another head says ‘ It’s all a hoax!’. Goodness knows what the other 3 heads are saying! You’re in part responsible for that floundering beast, Icebaby. Do you possess any political judgement at all? Despite the mess you’ve helped to create, you spend your time here, sniping at the Greens! Odd.

  29. >>more meat production, only were such a small country aren’t we Icebaby

    Just an example to illustrate a point.

    What do we actually achieve, in terms of averting global catastrophe brought about by man made c02, by cutting New Zealands emissions by 100%?


  30. An appropriate global answer might be to displace the meat industry in countries that raise meat with much higher c02 emissions, for example.

    Well, if all countries were to adopt a carbon trading schemme or a carbon tax with similar logistics, assuming the cost was placed on the producer, the natural consequence of market interactions would be a higher concentration of production where such production is less carbon-heavy, and as such cheaper.

  31. >>An appropriate global answer might be to displace the meat industry in countries that raise meat with much higher c02 emissions, for example.

    I knew there was a simple answer! more meat production, only were such a small country aren’t we Icebaby so your suggestion won’t actually have any effect will it?

  32. Greenfly, I’m not sure why you jump to conclusions.

    I voted for National. Do I support National in all they do? No. Will I? No. Two different things, in my mind.

    ‘cold wee man’

    I like seeking the truth and having interesting debates.

    >>what difference does it make if they tagg

    It’s not a suitable analogy. Kyoto is on a country by country basis.

    Surely we must ask ourselves what is the most effective thing we can do to help?

    I can’t see how the answer is for NZ to cut emissions, because we barely register on a global scale. An appropriate global answer might be to displace the meat industry in countries that raise meat with much higher c02 emissions, for example.

  33. bioneer – same applies to you – Only once you accept the arithmetic truth of the situation will there be a common platform enabling solutions to be discussed.

    Frankly, arguing 1 + 1 = tagging makes one look a bit silly.

  34. Dbuckley, Icebaby,
    Besides using any of the usual analogies of one person stealing a product from the store shelf or the like, may i put foward that America and similar countries are some of the highest emiting poluters but all it takes for the administration to drop a carbon preventiopn schemme is for a redneck to put up his hand and say “but the NZ farmers dont have to pay” and explain that it puts them at an unfair disadvantage againts our beef export industry and as such costs american jobs. What american politician wont bend under the possibility of loosing jobs?

  35. Ibaby – I’m not able to demonstrate anything about our impact on global temperatures (other than today’s NIWA prediction that our summer will be hotter than usual 🙂 after all, I’m not a climate scientist.
    You didn’t vote in the election? Please confirm. If you didn’t, perhaps you should keep your opinions to yourself. If you don’t have the courage of your convictions and are too timorous to declare your affiliations, why is it you feel entitled to slight those who have and aren’t? Come clean you ‘cold wee man’

  36. dbuckley would advise parents not to discourage their kids from tagging because, well, there is just so much out there! what difference does it make if they tagg. or break windows. or shoplift….
    and if they find a knife-attack victim there is nothing wrong with poking him with their keys cause hey, hes mortally wounded anyway

  37. Greenfly, when you’re ready to demonstrate the enormous impact New Zealand makes on global temperatures, do let us know.

    What party do I support? I don’t support any party. I take each issue on a case by case basis.

    I find it’s more intellectually honest that way, and less about dogma.

  38. Icebaby – tell us which party you support, so that we can slip a trite criticism into each reply we make to you, in the manner you employ. Something along the lines of, ‘as promoted by your dead-end party’, or ‘ according to your thought-challenged leader’. Go on Ice, fair’s fair! 🙂

  39. Yeah, but frog, our impact per head may be huge (sorry – HUGE), but our population numbers are tiny. Continue using the per capita numbers all you like, but at the end of the day, the undeniable truth is this: the only number that matters is the total. Mother Earth doesn’t know nor care which nation contributes what percentage, its all just a single global number.

    If Wikipedia is to be believed, we are the 69th worst emitter. Where would acutback of about 10% of our current emissions put us? About 73rd. What impact would that have in the total? About 0.01% of total emissions, the only number that matters.

    Ok lets say NZ stopped emitting altogether, what impact would that have? About 0.11% of the total, the only number that matters.

    Per capita numbers are fun, but they are totally meaningless.

    Only once you accept the arithmetic truth of the situation will there be a common platform enabling solutions to be discussed.

  40. >>Physics tells us that nothing is inconsequential.

    Splitting hairs now, huh.

    Please tell me how many degrees the ETS, or your preferred carbon tax, will reduce the global temperature by?

    >>Sure our numbers are low, but our impact per head is HUGE.

    So is the per capita impact of a lone guy on a desert island burning a tree.

    >>Sorry if my pointing out the truth annoys you.

    It doesn’t annoy me. It shows me how desperate your argument has become….

  41. Sorry Icebaby. Physics tells us that nothing is inconsequential. Particularly keeping your head in the sand. No we don’t amount to much, just one of the worst per capita emitters in the world. Sure our numbers are low, but our impact per head is HUGE.

    Sorry if my pointing out the truth annoys you.

  42. The impact New Zealand has on global c02 levels is inconsequential, and any cuts we make will be equally inconsequential. Scientific fact.

    You are living in a fantasy land, Frog. Your politics seem to prevent you from seeing what is self-evident. Our participation in the AGW issue is purely ceremonial.

    Sorry if my pointing out the truth annoys you so.

  43. No, not baseless, nor lies. Your persistent insistence that NZ does not exist and therefore cannot affect the world are annoying. Physics says that you are the liar. Go back under your rock, or back to your flat earth fantasy land.

  44. I’d be more concerned about flushing our economy, but thankfully, you guys weren’t kingmaker. Phew, eh.

    Meanwhile, you know full well that nothing New Zealand does will make the slightest bit of difference to the global climate.

    But your baseless lies persist….

  45. Today’s Speech from the Throne (John)
    ‘my Government anticipates co-operating with other parties in Parliament on issues of mutual interest.’

    – crumbs!

  46. XYY – Yes, I felt a glimmer of relief too. Then the Order Paper came out this morning with all of the original terms of the committee we saw before except one – they will not be doing a review of the science. Thank goodness. Although giving Rodney rope to hang himself would be fun, we need action now, not in a decade. So Dunne misspoke – probably revealing Key’s true intentions to shaft Hide inadvertently.

  47. If Dunne’s comments are correct, I find them quite encouraging — and well done to Key for leaving Act isolated on this issue. If Dunne’s comments are correct…

  48. Appears to go there but nothing in that or the Herald seems to describe what is in the brief in question. I think we have to wait until Frog shows/tells us what he actually meant to be pointing at. 🙂


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