Update: The Greens have decided to support the Emissions Trading Scheme. Here's the Greenpeace response.

Greens co-leader Jeanette FitzsimonsThe long anticipated Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will either either be born or stillborn next week.

IN the absence of any real policy on climate change the ETS, although not perfect, would be a good step in the right direction. It leaves out some important things like agriculture, but it is whole lot better than nothing.

The Labour Govt. don't have the numbers to get it through on their own so they've been in tough negotiations with NZ First and the Greens to attain their support for the bill.

The Greens have said in the past days that they are unsure about whether to support it and have asked for public opinion - should we or shouldn't we? They've set up a special email address for you to send you your thoughts on whether or not they should support the bill.

I'm certainly going to send them a strongly worded message. The climate is in crisis and New Zealand has virtually no policy in place to start addressing it. The ETS isn't perfect but it's all we've got at this point and to abandon it would be big step backwards.

And dear reader, if you've got an opinion on the matter I urge you to send it to the Greens at ... it's not every day that democracy is so participatory! (You can hear what the Greens have to say on the matter via a little youtube clip on their blog.)

The ETS is a complicated beast so here's an excerpt from our latest Greenpeace Magazine to explain it a little.

Why do we need the Emissions Trading Scheme

New Zealand is among the worst countries in the developed world for climate change emission increases. In recent years, our emissions have grown even faster than the United States. Not something we can be particularly proud of, but something we can change with the right attitude.

New Zealand has committed to taking action and reducing emissions by signing the Kyoto Protocol.

However, we’re failing to take action to actually meet our obligations: to the international community under the Protocol, to future generations by protecting the Earth and all the species that call it home,, and to ourselves and our clean green brand.

An Emissions Trading Scheme – what does it mean?

An Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) puts a price on climate change-causing emissions. Businesses that emit carbon and fall under the scheme must pay for those emissions. This is done using “credits”. One tonne of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution equals one credit. So a business that emits 5 million tonnes of GHG a year, will need 5 million credits to cover that pollution.

Essentially, an ETS uses financial markets to determine how to deal with the problem of pollution. About 200 businesses are expected to fall under the NZ scheme – such as oil companies, big industry, electricity generators, Fonterra, and foresters.

What’s so bad about not having a cap?

Usually, carbon trading involves what they call a “cap”, or limit, for the overall amount of emissions a country or sector can produce. Under the New Zealand ETS there is no cap.

The risk with a scheme that has no cap is that there is no guarantee of actually reducing our emissions, which, after all, should be the whole point of climate change policy. For instance the owner of a coal fired power station can keep on polluting as long as they can buy credits off a company doing the right thing, like a wind farm.

Without a cap New Zealand stands to lose the head start that we need to add value ahead of our global competitors, key markets for our products, our international credibility, negotiating power, trade partners, political allies and our clean green brand.