Kennedy Graham

Death of an ETS

by Kennedy Graham

The ETS Amendment Bill went through the House Thursday afternoon, at the end of the 3rd reading.

The NZ Parliament, I said, was enacting an iniquity.  With a bare majority, it was amending the ETS and guaranteeing dangerous climate change.

I levelled the charge of moral ecocide at two Government leaders – John Key and Tim Groser.  I made it clear, carefully, that this is not a legal crime in New Zealand but rather a political crime of the highest moral order.

The response form National MPs was predictable; in fact after enough time in the House one can write the script.

Dr Nick Smith gave the most earnest and rational response, as usual. Such a charge, from me, could only damage the environmental movement, it being a gross exaggeration to talk of hell on Earth in the next few decades when the global temperature would rise by only 0.3°C.

Maggie Barry offered the insightful contribution that such a charge came from La-la Land.  David Bennett contented himself with the repetitious statement of belief that I had never done a day’s work in my life.

Ecocide, any large-scale destruction of the natural environment, is a legal crime in some 20 countries, not yet in New Zealand or international law.

My contention is that, if our national leaders consciously craft legislation which they know will almost certainly result in increased emissions at a time when the scientific findings portend dangerous climate change, their action meets that definition.

While they may not, as individuals, be legally liable for actions that cause non-specific damage to humanity as a whole and those consequences are not individually-specific, they nonetheless are accountable in political morality.

If Messrs Key and Groser can produce a pathway for New Zealand’s emission reductions that credibly shows how its own national target of 10%-20% off 1990 can be achieved by 2020, I shall respectfully withdraw the charge.  But notwithstanding two specific requests to the Minister in the Committee to produce that, Mr Groser sat slumped next to the chairman, said nothing, chose not to speak at any stage, and left the chamber – the walking personification of democracy in New Zealand…

Dr Smith effectively counter-argued on the basis of the relative merits, rather than the absolute argument. If global temperature rise is ‘only’ 0.3 degrees over a decade or two, the fact remains that the long-term (half-a-century to a century – i.e. some more decades within the lifetime of today’s youth) is on track to 1.0 – 6.0°C.  So if it is a few more decades than the next two, the difference is marginal, not qualitative. So the charge remains.

The Bill went through, 61 to 58 votes.  The weakening of the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme will become law very soon – what Minister Groser lovingly describes as his ‘Rolls Royce’ model.

Published in Economy, Work, & Welfare | Environment & Resource Management by Kennedy Graham on Fri, November 9th, 2012   

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