Australia’s plan to link its climate change policy with the NZ emissions trading scheme is a timely challenge to the Government to get up to speed.
Last week Australian Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet, gave a speech about his country’s plans to tackle climate change which throw into sharp relief the National Government’s backward direction.
After years of obstructionist and self-serving action on climate change, Australia has vastly upgraded its act, joining the Kyoto Protocol in 2007 and introducing a carbon tax this year of A$23 per tonne, with a view to transforming that into a nation-wide emission trading scheme in 2015.
By contrast, New Zealand has gone the other way, making ambitious plans and announcements about climate change in the early ‘90s, then steadily backtracking since then, to the point where the Key Government has rendered our ETS completely supine and ineffective – a ‘farce’, to quote the Parliamentary for the Environment.
The Australian approach demonstrates the economic sense of a carbon tax to begin with. The cost of emissions in Australia stands at NZ$29. On this side of the Tasman, the cost of carbon stands at around NZ$2.85 for NZUs, and NZ$1.20 for ERUs. Throw in the farcical one-for-two obligation, and that makes it less than a dollar to emit carbon.
This comes at a time when the latest scientific evidence of polar ice melt makes it clear that dangerous climate change is closer than we thought.
Next week, the Government will push further amendments to the ETS through Parliament, seeking to complete the process of nullifying its effectiveness. Now is the time for New Zealanders to demand that the Government do its fair share in combatting climate change.
Not leading the world, not even a fast follower – just getting up to speed.