Kennedy Graham

“As predictable as a Tui billboard ad…..” Mr Groser’s characterisation of his climate change policy

by Kennedy Graham

The 18th UN annual climate change conference commenced on Monday.  I’ll be attending the 2nd week, and will blog from there about its dynamics and outcome.

Meanwhile the Key Government, with breath-taking timing, has taken two decisions in the run-up to Doha, both resulting, intentionally or otherwise, in seriously weakening New Zealand’s climate change credentials internationally.

Two weeks ago it pushed through its amendment bill, deferring almost every provision that might produce some behavioural change in reducing emissions.  And days later, it rejected a second commitment for legally-binding cuts under the Kyoto Protocol.

Increasingly on sensitive policy issues, this Government makes strategically-timed, short and terse announcements, truncates the parliamentary process, and hunkers down to weather the inevitable criticism.

A blithe form of arrogance, characteristic of a government under strain.

Among other negative consequences, the gutted ETS promises to wreak special havoc on the forest sector – check the recent NZ Farmers Weekly.  So I asked the Minister about this in the House.

Mr Groser acknowledged he had not received any formal advice on specific projections for the forestry sector, since it “is impossible to quantify at this moment”.  This is an odd remark for a cabinet minister, since both the ETS advisory panel (2011 report, p. 22) and the Ministry for Environment (annual report 2012, p. 10) have published New Zealand’s projected net emissions curve three to four decades out which necessarily factors in our forestry sink.

So this Government, in the knowledge that net emissions are projected to increase over the next four decades, has further weakened the ETS without calling for an analysis of the net effect on emissions, and particularly on forestry as the chief sink (and temporary ‘saviour’ of New Zealand’s carbon accounting).

A blithe form of arrogance, characteristic of a government under strain.

Is he concerned by reports that foresters are no longer planting trees? The Minister reports, dead-pan, that 3000 hectares were deforested in the past year.  No concern expressed. We do not deal in emotion here.  The bottom has fallen out of the international price, not the ETS, whose ‘structure remains fully in place’.

This is akin to the captain of the Titanic explaining to those around that the reason the ship is sinking is because its hull has fallen away.  Yes, Minister.

Does Mr Groser have any kind of plan on how to get to its own (conditional) target of 15% off our 1990 level?  Plan?  Plan? The plan is to stick with the ETS, which the Government has decided ‘not to accelerate at this point in time’.

Is the Government concerned that New Zealand received two ‘fossil awards’ on Day 1 of the UN conference in Doha?

Hah! “We receive these Fossil awards at every single ministerial conference.  It is about as predictable as the punch-line to a Tui billboard ad.”

A blithe form of arrogance, characteristic of a government under strain

Postscript:  On Monday at the UN conference, Pacific island countries described New Zealand’s decision against a 2nd Kyoto commitment as one of the obstacles to the conclusion of a global agreement on climate change.