There is a growing consensus that National’s climate policy is not only failing to stop pollution, but is actively encouraging the growth of highly polluting sectors of the economy.
For all the ambitious talk by the Prime Minister at the Paris climate conference, National has shown little appetite to implement real measures to transition New Zealand towards becoming a low carbon economy.
The government is asking for feedback from the public on its principal climate change policy, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and this has encouraged a fair bit of critical analysis of the government’s approach to climate change.
The government’s review of the ETS, critically, has refused to even consider the option of requiring agriculture to reduce climate damaging pollution, despite the sector accounting for almost half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Westpac’s Investment Bank released a damning report last week on the government’s climate policy. Westpac argued that excluding agriculture provides an implicit subsidy to the sector, paid for by tax payers and other businesses.
Westpac argues that these subsidies unfairly advantage polluting sectors like dairy and have the potential to “skew the New Zealand economy” towards agriculture.
The government continues to argue agriculture shouldn’t pay for its pollution because it risks making the sector uncompetitive internationally. This argument, however, ignores the history of New Zealand farmers who have thrived for 20 years without subsidies, while competing against countries that have maintained them.
The latest signal that things are going backward since it signed the Paris climate agreement has been the calls from the electricity sector to keep the Huntly coal-fired power plant open.
Genesis announced last year that Huntly would be closed in 2018 because of high costs. At the time the Prime Minister gloated that the decision was, at least partially, the result of pressures from the government’s climate policy (the ETS). The reality is that the government has whittled away any incentive to cut pollution in the energy sector by allowing them to pay for one tonne of carbon pollution and get the second tonne free.
If the ETS provided a real incentive to invest away from fossil fuels we would see the industry looking to new market and renewable energy solutions.
The Green Party is continuing to argue the government should scrap the failing ETS, and replace it with a simplified, revenue neutral, carbon tax. This would return tax revenue to businesses and households through a cut in the corporate and income tax rates.
The Green Party policy would give all New Zealanders a stake in reducing climate damaging pollution.
The Green Party submission on the ETS review can be read here.