Jeanette Fitzsimons
Gratitude for a climate change denier

Thank goodness for climate change denier Senator Fielding of Australia.

Didn’t think you’d ever hear me say that, did you?

Senator Fielding is the one vote Rudd didn’t have yesterday to pass their “Carbon Reduction Plan” – or Emissions Trading Scheme in our language. And that is a good thing, because the proposal was so appallingly weak that it would not actually reduce carbon emissions, but would have given huge subsidies to the coal and other heavy industries.

The five Green senators aren’t having a bar of it – although they support reducing carbon emissions and emissions trading if it is set up right. Senator Fielding (Independent) opposed it in yesterday’s vote for the opposite reason – he thinks climate change is not caused by human activity, but probably the result of solar flares. Whatever. The important thing is the outcome.

Why should we care? Well, because the NZ Government is desperately keen to amend our law, passed last year, to “align” with the Australian scheme. That would see us:

  • delaying the introduction of agriculture, possibly indefinitely;
  • allocating the free credits for trade exposed industry on an intensity basis – ie the more you grow your emissions in the future, the bigger the subsidy you get.  No incentive for growing low carbon industry there;
  • capping the value of carbon units, initially at $10 a tonne – no incentive to do anything much there;
  • prohibiting the sale of Australian units outside the country, so limiting the market to what Australian buyers are willing to pay.
  • offsetting the effect on transport fuels by reducing other taxes, with the effect that there will be no effect on transport fuel prices, and so no change in behaviour. And their petrol is already cheaper than ours.

So the Greens here are pleased that for several months at least, there will be no Australian scheme to align with. We have a scheme in law now – it is not perfect, but it is much better than this.

It is possible that in October, when the Bill could be put up again, the Liberals will change their opposition and vote for it, in an even weaker state.

But by then it will be too late to get  legislation through the NZ Parliament before the energy and industrial sector takes on liabilities under our existing law, on 1 January 2010.

The Government is in a real bind. No allocation plans have been developed for the energy sector, sorting out who will get free credits, and how many, allocated because their competitors overseas face no price on carbon. It is 10 months since the law was passed but officials appear to have stopped working on the complex allocation plans when the new government was elected, because John Key said he would put the ETS on hold while he developed amendments. Such a law is a long way off, supposing the Government can even get the numbers to pass it.

Allocation plans are not quick to get approved as they have to come to Parliament for scrutiny. In the meantime, time marches on and industries like cement, steel, aluminium, wood processing, Fonterra and others are looking at 100% liability for their emissions on 1 January because there are no allocation plans.

That cannot be allowed to happen, but it is not clear how the Government plans to stop it.

29 thoughts on “Gratitude for a climate change denier

  1. Allocation plans are not quick to get approved as they have to come to Parliament for scrutiny. In the meantime, time marches on and industries like cement, steel, aluminium, wood processing, Fonterra and others are looking at 100% liability for their emissions on 1 January because there are no allocation plans.

    That cannot be allowed to happen

    Why not?

    100% liability for polluters sounds like a damn good thing to me.

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  2. While I agree with you in theory, I have to agree with Jeanette that that would be a shock to the economy and unfair to any business competing with overseas firms that face nothing like 100% of their emissions.

    i would argue that we need to phase them in, steeply in my opinion. We don’t want to do a Roger Douglas to the economy. We know what happened last time the subsidy tap was turned off abruptly.

    Carbon intensive industries have been subsidised forever by the environment for their emissions. We ought not Roger them overnight.

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  3. “i would argue that we need to phase them in, steeply in my opinion. We don’t want to do a Roger Douglas to the economy. We know what happened last time the subsidy tap was turned off abruptly.”

    Yes….farmers grew up and became self reliant while the taxpayer suffered a bit less rape in the back pocket to keep paying them to produce things no one wanted….it was the good moral and the practicle thing to do….and NZ today needs to do it again …on a far greater scale.

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  4. Point taken James, but would you do it overnight, or phase them in as I suggested. I agree the carbon subsidy must go, and quickly. But how quickly? Do we throw heaps of people out of work during a recession without a hope of adjusting?

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  5. frog, Are importers required to pay for the CO2 emitted during the production and transport of their goods or this requirement only being imposed on domestic producers?

    I’m not sure I want to drink milk imported from China just because it’s half the price of the local product.

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  6. Just to be really clear about this.

    Without putting people into make-work projects there are 6 billion people on this planet who on current technologies can very likely be fed, clothed, housed and entertained by a tenth that number.

    That’s the ACTUAL unemployment picture. Governments and other agencies work damned hard to keep things IN-efficient enough that the illusion of useful productivity can be had by the masses…. but the truth is that they are falling behind that curve as well.

    Moreover, those current-technologies are in many cases beyond the knowledge and intellect of the bottom half the population.

    Society is not able to cope with people who produce nothing of value.

    People are not easily able to cope with feeling useless.

    People who can ACTUALLY be productive resent having to work for people who can’t

    It is just another trend that is bound to end badly. Don’t ask me for an answer, as I have none. I just thought this might make the depressing news from all quarters just a little darker. :-)

    respectfully
    BJ

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  7. bjchip,

    “Without putting people into make-work projects there are 6 billion people on this planet who on current technologies can very likely be fed, clothed, housed and entertained by a tenth that number. That’s the ACTUAL unemployment picture”

    And yet 90% of the population is not unemployed, so clearly you are making a very major miscalculation somewhere.

    Sure, many people are in useless make-work schemes: the public sector is notorious in this regard. But the majority are producing output of real value to others. We know this because they are returning a profit.
    Remember, Capitalism is the first and only social system in all of human history that is not based on violence. All transactions are peacful and therefore voluntary. If you’re not making stuff that other people want, at a price that makes sense, then you go out of business. That is how we know that most people are genuinely employed.

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  8. Carbon intensive industries have been subsidised forever by the environment for their emissions. We ought not Roger them overnight.

    Screw ‘em. If they’re not profitable when paying the full cost of their pollution, we are actually better off without them and their environmental degredation. It really is that simple. Continuing to subdise them simply allows them to pollute more.

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  9. Wat,

    Capitalism is the first and only social system in all of human history that is not based on violence. All transactions are peacful and therefore voluntary.

    LOL, i think we have had this discussion before; Capitalism requres the right to property, the right to property requires the ability to exclude that property from the utilisation of another. In the real world that exclusion can only be performed using force, in some places that force takes the form of laws made by the coercive infrastructure of the state and in others it takes the form of a side-arm. Capitalism is though, just as much based in violence as any other system of exchange.

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  10. Around half of the North Island’s electricity generation comes from fossil fuels, which would subject the generators to paying for their emissions. If you brought this in overnight, what is to stop them switching off these generators and subjecting you to power cuts the next morning? Sure the price of electricity would rise, but domestic consumers don’t pay spot prices so until domestic electricity prices have a chance to change, why should the produces subsidise domestic consumers?

    At least give them enough warning so they can build more renewable generation first. And yes, I can hear the claims that we have been warning them for years, but the power companies need clear statements of the intend to impose these costs that they can take to their shareholders meetings to justify their decisions.

    Trevor.

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  11. Wat

    Are you saying that 90% of the planet’s population is gainfully employed?

    However, that isn’t the point I was making or what I said…. though I am not all that clear in the previous post.

    What I was pointing out was that actual EFFICIENT production by a very few people, along with completely fair trade/distribution arrangements would allow 90% of the population to do nothing at all.

    This implies that energy and land use efficiency increases come at a cost, and the cost is increasing under and un-employment… on a planetary basis.

    The fact that we have employment rates that are substantially higher is an indication of the degree of inefficiency we have accepted in order to conform to the ideals of the 19th century and have all of us working. The work-ethic is strong but the actual ability to produce NEEDED things efficiently is limited. There is no way to consume all the production we are capable of, so we must destroy things to have jobs rebuilding and replacing them.

    Is that more helpful?

    respectfully
    BJ

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  12. Building things in order to destroy them is not a sustainable activity.

    The economic model that supports increasing a population of 6 Billion is very broken.

    The planet will very likely give way beneath it.

    Jan Theodore Galkowski:”Climate Change is a global evolutionary test, nothing less, and even that assumes no non-linear tunnels and tips. It is a test of whether or not we can extend our personal valuations of goodness over decades and centuries rather than fiscal quarters.”

    It isn’t going to work. The changes won’t be made. We’re going to see +4 degrees or a nuclear winter before the work of this economist driven extinction event is over.

    For those who question how bad that might be I do recommend reading (though not the purchase of) “Six Degrees”. He does not cover nuclear winters.

    Overpopulation will still be an issue as the carrying capacity of the planet will be altered in some hellish ways.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  13. BJ stop scaring the kids. Frog doesn’t believe in your Mad Max scenario.

    I don’t think we will see a nuclear winter mainly because the State will breakdown long before any thought of lauching nuclear weapons. People will be to busy trying to feed themselves. Those who have grown dependent on the state will die first and I really doubt the population of the earth will still be 6 billion by 2050, I think it will have declined.

    If we follow the nuclear winter train of thought then the USSR should of lauched all its nuclear weapons as it collapsed.

    I am stocking up on chain mail outfits along with gimp suits as I believe I will be able to trade those in this future MAD MAX world, since it would appear thats what people wear.

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  14. “Capitalism is the first and only social system in all of human history that is not based on violence. ”

    Hilarious. Capitalism simply realised that if you claim ownership of people’s land by waving a piece of paper, and then use force to make them landless, they then have no choice but to work for you and buy your products. Unless they prefer to starve, freeze or live in absolute poverty.

    Capitalism doesn’t work too well, so we have social welfare systems which redistribute wealth by force, to enable people to live tolerably in the capitalist system and not get so grumpy they turn to crime or try and overthrow the system.

    If you’re not making stuff that other people want, at a price that makes sense, then you go to the government and get a subsidy, a profitable contract or arrange for them to pick up some of your costs – such as training your workers or giving them health care. The government will normally cough up because otherwise people will get grumpy and blame them.

    It’s a real gem of a system, in a twisted sort of a way.

    “I am stocking up on chain mail outfits along with gimp suits as I believe I will be able to trade those in this future MAD MAX world.”

    Nope, the secret to economic survival in a post-collapse world is coffee and chocolate Tm Tam biscuits. In a non-consumerist eat-what-you-grow or hunt world, people will pay almost anything for coffee and bikkies.

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  15. Turnip – I DID say “or” +4 degrees…. and I don’t think I know which is worse. The fact that the USSR avoided launching on us doesn’t speak to how close they might have been to doing so… or what the next group of people who have nukes and need food might do.

    I would actually expect only a few nukes to be used. North Korea seems a likely source for a few. Pakistan vs India seems a likely exchange as well. Iran and Israel.

    Not “Global Thermonuclear War” but several local wars.

    A Nuclear Winter might not ensue. Maybe it would be JUST enough to knock the temperature down for a while (Nuclear war as a good thing? ). Maybe it would kick us into an Ice-Age. It is the wild-card aspect of it that is so REALLY annoying.

    Boat people would multiply and die by… well by the boatload.

    I don’t EVEN want to think about what immigration policy we’d have to pursue…. but we’d best consider it beforehand.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  16. Well said Sam! I bake my own. The trick is going to be getting the chocolate. Lets find a place to grow Cacao trees and Coffee beans here in NZ. Probably cut our trade deficit in half. :-)

    BJ

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  17. BJ,

    I don’t EVEN want to think about what immigration policy we’d have to pursue…. but we’d best consider it beforehand.

    That is assuming off course that society as we know it in New Zealand (and the rest of the world) will continue to function.

    There may well be no government as we know it. Without taxes to collect in a post collapse world, the governance will quickly disappear.

    We have little law and order now, just imagine no armed forces, no police, etc. whom are answerable to a peoples government.

    Gangs are actually structured best for survival. I would imagine societies breaking down into tribal factions based on conquest of property.

    While no survivalist, I can see a future where society as we know it today (with unenforceable imigration policies) will no longer be around and boat people will be arriving by the score. Sertting up their own tribes in competion with the local ones.

    Best we learn to be warriors again.

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  18. any free-market nut will tell you that there will never be a Tim Tam shortage, because they can always be substituted with Chit Chats.

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  19. free market nut Kahikatea, then how come its the Keynesian Statists who put the concept of subsititution into the CPI numbers so as to hide the real price increases.

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  20. Gerrit

    No… I don’t see that Government disintegrates here. It may do so where the physical problems overwhelm everyone, but it is entirely possible for NZ to establish its own arrangements and for the government to remain the “biggest gang” or the “official gang”. That is what it is after all. It’s OUR gang.

    With a Navy and an Army and Police and all the rest. The people who serve in those forces aren’t going to pack up and quit. The key to our survival will be our ability to support ourselves. It is more possible here than anywhere else I can think of. The petrol imports would stop though, and we aren’t ready for that reality at all.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  21. Yes… and hamburger gets substituted for steak to keep the CPI down and then when that ceases to work roadkill gets substituted for the hamburger.

    (17 reserved words in 3 languages deleted here) economists.

    BJ

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  22. Sam said: And gardeners and a resounding cheer erupted from my corner!

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  23. The sooner the Greens get honest with themselves and the NZ public in general about the fundamental inability for emissions trading to make any progress twards the systemic changes that are required to put New Zealand and the rest of the world on a path towards safe levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the better.

    I find it incredible with all the failures of emissions trading that the Greens can still point them out every now and then and ask for the NZETS to be made a little better when they should know that its fundamentally flawed from the start.

    Friends of the Earth and the Climate Justice Movement are the only strong voices on the planet who with the guts and foresight to admit this to the rest of the environmental movement and actively work towards the removal of these failed mechanisms from Kyoto and national climate policy of many countries.

    you can read the FOE report here http://withoutyourwalls.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/offsetting-a-dangerous-distraction/

    Carbon trading is a dangeropus charade that will do nothing to reduce global warming while at th esame time crowding out all possibly realistic solutions. Why do you think we dont have a moratorium on Fossil Fuel generation any more?

    It’s A Bit Like… Handing control of the Earth’s vital natural systems over to a bunch of grinning Wall Street traders. Oh no, wait: it’s exactly like that.

    Maybe we’ve learned nothing from the lessons of the past 20- years of market madness? Or maybe we’re all so busy trying to convince the North Shore Tribe that their lifstyles will actually get better if we address climate change that we’ve begun to believe it ourselves.

    Markets and the Economy in general ARE the problem – emissions trading perpetuates this. Is really very simple.

    http://www.carbontradewatch.org
    http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk

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  24. The preferred solution of the Green party was a carbon tax, but neither National nor Labour supported this.

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  25. BJ,

    It will be interesting to see a functioning government funded by gardeners.

    Somehow an law enforcment officer being paid in cabbages seems sureal.

    And yes Valis, we need gardeners, how else will us Vikings feed ourselves. You grow, we plunder. A few cows, pigs, sheep and horses would do us nicely as well thanks.

    Somehow the rosy picture of all living in harmony and working together seems like a communist poster from the 1950′s or a flower power love in from the 1970′s.

    It is just not going to happen. Not till the world has culled 4 billion people from the planet and created space for individual tribes to flourish.

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  26. Gerrit

    It has happened before in human history. However, money doesn’t have to disappear from the local society, it just gets torn from the grasp of global banks and placed under the control of government as it is SUPPOSED to be.

    Did I offer a “rosy picture” ? Did I? :-)

    If you reckon the choice between +4 degrees and a nuclear winter is a “rosy picture” I have to tip my hat to you. I’ve never before found anyone except perhaps Lovelock, who takes a bleaker view than I do. I do however, expect that most of those billions of dead people will be culled from places OTHER than NZ.

    So in NZ, civil government doesn’t have to disintegrate into tribalism. I’ll also allow that it would be much better for all of us if it did not. We MAY be able to maintain a stage-2. To do so we’re going to need to adjust to being on our own.

    Orlov doesn’t speak to the situation in NZ when the rest of the world has fallen rapidly into stage 3 and 4 and communication and commerce between NZ and other places are cut off (forcing us into stage 2 even if we are relatively untouched). Still, his is a convenient model to describe the expected result.

    http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2008/02/five-stages-of-collapse.html

    respectfully
    BJ
    This would be vastly preferable to descending further down the list.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  27. BJ,

    Excellent link to a must read posting. Thanks.

    I would think we are at stage 2.5, and about to enter stage 3.

    Stage two contains

    Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost.

    I would think that many of the Greens are already at stage 2, so a cascade to stage 3 is not far away.

    It is interesting to aks if the world reaches stage 5, what effect the drastic reduction of green houses gasses will have on the earths climate change.

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