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Rollback in New Zealand's emissions trading scheme?

A little more than a week after New Zealand’s National Party swept away nine years of Labour Party rule, new Prime Minister John Key stitched together a coalition government.

At the new government's swearing in ceremony in Wellington, Key’s center-right coalition promised to boost economic growth by cutting taxes, enacting free trade policies and expanding infrastructure investment.

Outside of jump starting New Zealand’s faltering economy, one of Key’s biggest domestic challenges will be to determine how much to preserve of former Prime Minister Helen Clark’s environmental policies, especially the carbon Emissions Trading Scheme ratified earlier this year.

To build his coalition, Keys reached out to the ACT Party, which campaigned on a platform to repeal the ETS. This partnership forced the National party to vow to delay implementing the pollution-control plan. Instead, the government will create a special Parliamentary committee to investigate amendments or alternatives to the ETS “in the light of current economic circumstances and steps now being undertaken by similar nations.”

This maneuvering comes at the heels of a recent United Nations report that ranks New Zealand with one of the world's largest carbon emissions increases since 1990.

As can be expected, many of New Zealand’s left leaning (and environmental) bloggers have deplored the potential roll-back of the ETS, however imperfect some may view the legislation . New Zealand’s scheme is scheduled to begin phasing in the forestry industry this year and introduce trading to the stationary energy and industrial processes in 2010.

“Just when the New Zealand government is taking us back to square one on climate change with a denialist dog and pony show, US President-elect Barack Obama has committed his new administration to serious action, declares No Right Turn:

Dirty America has just said that they intend to make “clean and green” New Zealand look like slackers. Is that really a reputation we want? Worse than the Americans?

If John Key really was “ambitious for New Zealand”, he'd want us to be better than that. He'd cancel ACT's denier forum and commit now to a stronger ETS with legislated targets for a 75% reduction on 1990 levels by 2020. The earlier we commit, the easier it will be, and a steeper path now always gives us the option of backing off later if it looks like the problem is well in hand. But if we follow National's “plan”, and sit on our hands for another couple of years while sending the wonks back to the drawing board for a completely new policy for the fifth time in 15 years, while having no long-term plan, then it is going to be much, much harder.

toad, writing in G. Blog, a community for Green Party members, worries that the new select committee will rehash already completed work and delay progress in carbon trading.

Of course, there will be no new evidence. This whole exercise is aimed at stalling doing anything to address climate change for another three years. On National’s part, this is because addressing climate change in any meaningful manner will annoy powerful farming and roading interests that helped to get them elected. On ACT’s part, it is because their ideological position doesn’t allow them to accept anthropogenic climate change – their peculiar logic is that if the free market can’t fix it, then it must not be happening.

Meanwhile, it seems that we all sit around for another three years doing nothing about climate change. Meanwhile, repealing the moratorium on further thermal power generation is one of National’s and ACT’s highest priorities.

Many bloggers from the left pointed to Tim Watkin’s (of the Pundit) tough questions he posed concerning the new coalition government:

Have we wasted the whole last decade debating climate change policy, if we need to go back and start from scratch with a select committee review of ETS? No party was happy with the scheme that was finally passed in September. It took years of negotiation and huge political compromise from those who voted for it. Now National will consider “any amendments or alternatives to it, including carbon taxes”. Are we just starting again then? Given that US president-elect Barack Obama is committed to a cap and trade scheme and even the United Nations is working on plans for a “Green New Deal“, why on earth are we choosing to give up our competitive advantage (ie years of policy work)?

Calling the Act party’s climate change policy a “friggin’ joke,” Tumeke saves most of the vitriol for the National party.

what are National actually going to do now in Government, and seeing as this means actually having to read National’s policy, it’s becoming quickly apparent the spin that mACTional is moderate is nonsense and that NZers have been sold a change lemon. It’s fascinating that National who drove a bloody tractor up the steps of parliament to fight the ‘fart tax’ are now so eager to bring in a carbon tax as a cop out from the emissions trading scheme, what a sick joke.

Richard Hurst writing in NZ Right Wing Leftie argues neither Labour or the Green parties are willing to admit the ETS will not deter global warming and make the government too poor to build necessary infrastructure like wind farms, dams and sustainable urban centers:

They’ve both invested far too much political capital into the ETS insanity to backtrack now. Who cares if it won’t actually stop climate change, who cares if NZ’s emissions total just 0.2% of total emissions, who cares if infrastructure that we will need like wind farm Project Hayes, the Central Plains Water dam and irrigation scheme, new hydro on the West coast etc etc are being stopped by the RMA and a hostile Labour govt, who cares if the ETS will cost NZ billions and lower our standard of living while achieving nothing…power, pride and deep unwillingness to admit their wrong is far more important to Labour and the Greens than doing what’s best for New Zealanders and the environment.

By the time New Zealanders realize what a horrible mistake the ETS is it may well be much too late. Of course neither Labour, the Greens or New Zealand First have actually asked us if we want it or not their just going to shove it through anyway. Kind of thing an election should decide surely? Instead of rushing it through under urgency before anyone can pause for thought. Reminds me of the way certain changes were made in the 1980s….some things in Labour don’t change I guess.

New committee aside, not all right-leaning bloggers believe the Key government will bring change to the country’s climate policy. Susie the Libertarian argues in a guest post at Not PC that incoming environmental minister Nick Smith’s environmental values “would not be out of place in the Green Party.”

And that alone should worry any working New Zealander with at least half a functioning brain.

Before going off on a scathing review of rural life in England under new Labour of Tony Blair, she returns to her critique of what life in New Zealand would be like under Minister Smith:

..the essence and ramifications of interference by central planners upon YOUR property and, perhaps, YOUR livelihood under the banner of protecting the environment. And with the weasel having been given the added portfolio of Climate Change in addition to that of The Environment, you can bet your ever decreasing dollar that Nick Smith has every intention of stamping his mark upon New Zealand, both rural and urban.

Others argue that Smith’s appointment proves it is politics-as-usual at the environmental portfolio.
A commenter to the Not PC blog, Mark Hubbard, argues: 

With Smith also in charge of, snort, Climate Change, I think the farmers who were foolish enough to vote National are about to get a rude awakening over the ETS – which I assume Smith will have a big say in. You're right, he will take, if anything, the Green hard line.

Indeed, many of the new National Cabinet, including the much touted Paula Bennett, would be just as at home on Labour's front bench.

Same old, same old.

I can't see how I'm going to have any more freedom from Big Old Nosy Nanny State at the end of this three years; indeed, I suspect this will finally prove the absolute ascendancy of Big Statism, and the further pounding and hounding back of individual freedom to only the tiniest of flickering lights.

Another commenter, LGM argues:

Those of you who supported the pragmatic let's-not-waste-votes option of supporting ACT or National, now is your chance. Time to lobby your ACT and National Parties. Write some letters. Call up the talkback. Call up your MP's electorate office. Let them know what you do NOT want is carbon tax or ETS or any other climate change nonsense. Are you not bearing enough of a burden supporting govt rorts already? Surely you do not want to accept more?

We’ll end here with a more general piece on a new form of religion from Dark Brightness — Bleak Theology: hopeful science — in a post called “Climate Heresy”:

…I’m becoming more and more irritated with the new Green state religion. My Anglo-Saxon forebears occaisionally sacrificed a noble to Odin one-eye, and the Romans (who were not by any means saints) were disgusted by the Druidic habit of bone fires.

The current Greens want to sacrifice humankind. Moreover, knowing that adults can think, can see when they are speaking shite (it is hard to talk about global warming after a cool northern summer, and snow in November in the South Island).

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