Nick Smith: incompetent, negligent, or something else?

by frog

It’s a very serious question which I don’t take lightly, but I am beginning to wonder why the media aren’t asking this question when it comes to the Minister’s handling of the Climate Change portfolio.

Probably the most vexing issue is the Minister’s cynical use of a flawed NZIER/Infometrics report, which he commissioned, in order to inform his 2020 emissions reduction target, a use for which the report itself claims it cannot be used:

To be clear, this report investigates the impact of changes in New Zealand’s AAUs under the framework of an international agreement whereby New Zealand takes responsibility for any emissions above a given amount. This is not the same as investigating different domestic emissions targets and should not be interpreted as such.

How were the terms of reference for this report developed, and who developed them? The seriousness of the flaws has prompted significant debate in economic circles, with a damning analysis by economist Geoff Bertram:

Economic models are, unfortunately, rather like fast cars, alcohol and tobacco: their consumption has significant external effects which makes them lethal to the public interest in the hands of addicts and children.

Is this a veiled reference to Smith? He goes on:

To retain the idea of “Business As Usual” as a world in which New Zealand has no emission commitment is a basic analytical error unless the assumption is made that withdrawal from Kyoto is feasible and likely.

When Mr Bertram re-runs the same models with the assumption that New Zealand is in fact part of the Kyoto Protocol, (i.e. reality), he concludes that the picture for New Zealand is much improved, and surprise, surprise:

Pushing technical change in agriculture would really yield a big gain in emission reduction at low cost to the economy.

I could go on, but there are other issues with the Minister’s analysis, like the complete pretension that forestry has no role to play in our carbon reduction scenarios.

The 2020 Cabinet Paper that Minister Smith sent to his colleagues claimed that:

Estimates of the economic impact of the different 2020 target scenarios do not include the impacts on forestry, due to difficulties in modelling this.

However, an OIA by NoRightTurn found yet another government forestry report, aside from the one we Greens used for our Getting There analysis, showing that forestry is one of the biggest and one of the cheapest options for New Zealand going forward.

Why is the Minister deliberately playing this down? Why the proposal to cap the price of carbon, which will kill any chance of the market (and forestry) to save our necks, while making the taxpayer subsidise all of New Zealand’s foreign owned big emitters?

Gareth over at Hot Topic discusses the vexing issue of hiding the facts on forestry in great detail so I won’t say more.

Another issue is that of alignment with Australia. While pleading our uniqueness, the Minister repeatedly refers to the need for alignment with an Aussie ETS that doesn’t even exist. The Australian ETS legislation was shot down in flames last week for a second time, and the likelihood of it being resurrected before Copenhagen are slim to none.

How can the Minister continue to claim alignment and that he’ll have a modified NZ ETS before Copenhagen in December? It’s not possible and Smith is deluding himself and the public if he thinks he can do it. There is speculation here at home that National cannot even get the numbers to amend our ETS. Does he think we’re stupid?

Meanwhile, the scientific head of the IPCC calls the Smith’s position “disappointing, inadequate and unambitious“. Smith’s response? To write him and

to explain how New Zealand’s high proportion of farm emissions means it is a developed country with a developing country’s emissions profile.

This was was not well understood, he said.

“I don’t think in his comments he has comprehended the scale of the challenge that New Zealand has in reducing emissions,” Dr Smith told Newsroom.

In other words, to write and whinge like a petulant two year old with special pleading.

I could go on, but this post is far too long as it is. Back to my original question. Is Nick Smith incompetent, negligent, or something else? Is it time he was replaced with someone who will do a proper, bottom up analysis of new Zealand’s options?

frog says

Published in Environment & Resource Management by frog on Mon, August 24th, 2009   

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