climate action now
A banner nfront of the Marsden B power station in Northland. Greenpeace ran a successful 3-year campaign against the station's recommissioning and convertion to run on coal.
The National party has pulled its backing for the emissions trading scheme. Leader John Key says the whole thing has been rushed and that his party will not support the Bill when it gets voted on in Parliament on June 10. The party has also confirmed that it does not support the Government’s proposed 10-year ban on new fossil fuel generation (which is to say new coal and gas fired power stations for electricity).

Both announcements bode badly for New Zealanders, on a number of levels. First, they suggest that the potential future leader of this country doesn’t give a toss about climate change. Secondly, the more the ETS is delayed, and the more fossil fuel generation allowed, the higher our emissions, therefore the higher our Kyoto bill, and the more that taxpayers must fork out to cover it.

National’s announcement, which came out at the party’s regional conference in Wellington on Sunday, read like propaganda from the Greenhouse Policy Coalition (the group set up to represent and lobby for big business on climate policy). It seems National is caving in to polluters against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders who want action on climate change.

Talk of a rushed timetable is ridiculous. Rarely has a piece of legislation been so heavily analysed and widely consulted over as the ETS. For National to now call “wait!” says more about its lack of commitment to tackling the issue than it does about the robustness of the legislation.

It is worth doing a quick comparison with the timetable around the Free Trade Agreement with China.

Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill:

- Introduced into Parliament: 4/12/07 - Referred to Select Committee: 11/12/07 - Submissions due: 29/02/08 - Report to Parliament: 10/06/08

Big business and National reckon that this is not enough time.

New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement Bill:

Introduced into Parliament: 12/5/08 Referred to Select Committee: 15/05/08 Submissions due: 6/6/08 Report to Parliament: 30/6/08

No complaints from big business or National about this timetable, although it is around one quarter of the time.

To push the legislation back until after the election is completely unacceptable. We’ve wasted enough time getting around to dealing with climate change in New Zealand. If we drag our feet any more we’ll get stuck for good and can kiss our reputation as a responsible and progressive member of the international community goodbye.

John Key talks like he’s taking this stance on behalf of ordinary New Zealanders. The irony is that the more the scheme is delayed, the more those ordinary New Zealanders will pay. Every time the scheme is delayed or weakened, big polluting businesses get more time and leniency to keep on polluting. And it’s taxpayers who must pay for this pollution under Kyoto.

John Key also says our ETS, as it stands and if it passes this year, will make us a world leader on climate change. God forbid, says John. There’s no need for leadership! Let’s slow down, follow the pack, wait and see what our counterparts across the Tasman do.

Lest we forget this is the same man who backed Australia’s decision to send troops to Iraq and who joined hands with former Australian Prime Minister John Howard to denounce the Kyoto Protocol.

Infact, the ETS won’t make New Zealand a leader on anything; all it will do it is keep us on par with important decisions and changes happening right around the world. It's just one step towards New Zealand making a credible contribution to the climate change crisis.

sizzle sausage
National Party Environment Spokesman Nick Smith accepts a free sausage at Greenpeace's "All Sizzle No Sausage" BBQ outside Parliament last year. The event was designed to draw attention to political rhetoric over climate change, which has not been backed up with real action.

National’s opposition to a moratorium on new thermal generation is equally unacceptable. New fossil fuel power stations are being lined up right around New Zealand, for example the proposed Genesis gas power station in John Key’s own electorate of Helensville. No doubt his constituents will be very disappointed by the news he supports such projects.

John Key claims that the moratorium raises security of supply issues. He’s either confused or just being misleading. The proposed partial ban will not undermine security of supply. New Zealand has enough renewable energy coming on stream and there are exemptions in the legislation to allow new gas-fired power stations if they’re genuinely needed. Scrapping the moratorium will mean more costs for the taxpayer, because our Kyoto bill will just keep skyrocketing until we switch to low carbon energy options. Again, big business wins, ordinary Kiwis lose. Nice one National.