Thursday was one of those rare moments when parliamentary debate tosses up a touch of democracy – a juxtaposition of deeply-held views, expressed back-to-back, in one bill before the House.
First up on the Order Paper was the Government’s latest foray into climate change legislation – the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading & Other Matters) Amendment Bill. This is the Government’s (selective) implementation of the Review Panel’s recommendations.
The Government introduced the Bill on Monday evening, and forced the debate at the earliest opportunity allowed – Thursday afternoon – two working days later. Having got it through first reading, it then requires report-back by the select committee by 17 October, an extraordinarily short time-period for a bill of this magnitude. In short-circuiting the process, the Government knows no shame. But that is another story. On to the substance.
The Green Party opposed the Bill. Our principal argumentation was as follows:
- The Government is hewing to an outmoded economic philosophy and not having due regard to the global context within which national policy on climate change needs to be formulated.
- The global carbon budget for a 2°C threshold is some 1,600 billion tonnes of emissions from 1990 to 2100, almost half of which has been emitted already, leaving space for annual emissions henceforth of 9.5 b. tonnes – 20% of current levels.
- The voluntary pledges for emission reductions will result in a rise in global emissions from 48 billion tonnes today to 50 b. tonnes in 2020, whereas the 2°C limit requires 44 b. tonnes. Clearly the international community is failing the challenge of averting serious anthropogenic climate change.
- New Zealand, in response to the UN appeal for 40% cuts (below 1990 levels) in 2020 and 80% in 2050, has pledged 15% (mid-point) and 50%, respectively. Clearly New Zealand is not doing its fair share.
- The current Bill would weaken an already weak ETS to the point of irrelevance – deferring agriculture indefinitely, deferring a rise in the price cap, deferring a one-for-one surrender obligation, making it easier for foresters to switch to dairying, and enabling importers to increasingly use dangerous synthetic gases.
- We should consider Sweden and Ireland, which have reduced agricultural emissions by 10% and 7%, while NZ has increased them by 16%.
- Where National regards its policy as a necessary deferral of a financial burden to selected economic sectors, the Green Party sees it as a societal opportunity to switch to a high tech, low-carbon, green economy.
I was immediately followed by Hon John Banks (ACT) who supported the Bill. His speech is here. His principal argumentation was as follows:
- Parliament had never listened to so much claptrap as was contained in my speech since the 20th century.
- No Green Party candidate could ever get elected as a constituent MP; and I was challenged to stand in Epsom in 2014 and take my chances there. Epsom voters will know that Green views are humbug.
- Parliament had never listed to such a bogeyman tirade as my speech, for which Hon John Banks could be forgiven for wishing to hurl himself out of the window of his 11th floor office in Bowen House.
- New Zealand, emitting 0.2% of global emissions, has negligible influence.
- Most of the climate change debate is humbug.
- ACT is pleased to amend the Climate Change legislation since the ETS is a monstrosity, and it is important to minimise its worst effects for the business community.
- The Bill should be retitled the Climate Change (Common Sense) Amendment Bill.
Seven points from each contributor.
There is only one point in Mr Bank’s argumentation that a person might be tempted to agree with.