David Parker
Climate Change Minister David Parker defends the Labour party's climate credentials at a recent debate onboard the Rainbow Warrior. Unfortunately for David, Helen Clark’s recent announcements have made the job all that much harder.
...in which our mighty leader - the Lady in Red – begins to crumble in the face of smoke stacks, cow sheds and men in Working Style suits.

New Zealand’s response to climate change is at a crossroads, and all indications are that the Labour-led government is so engrossed in election panic that it’s going to sacrifice taxpayer money and the planet to curry favour.

Unfortunately for the Government, this is likely to play perfectly into the hands of the National Party which will be quick to claim the credit for the policy shift, while shrewdly leaving Labour to shoulder any fallout.

New Zealand’s flagship climate policy is the emissions trading scheme (ETS), which is currently under scrutiny by Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee. In its current form, the scheme suffers serious shortcomings, and desperately needs to be strengthened (see Greenpeace’s comprehensive and easy-reading report into the scheme, which was released to much fanfare in March - www.greenpeace.org.nz/ets-report) Sadly, these weaknesses in the ETS are being compounded by the day as the Government caves in to big business and waters it down.

Yesterday it announced plans to weaken the scheme by giving away more free pollution credits to the loudest business lobbies. It will do so by delaying the start of the phase-out period for the free pollution credits. It has also chosen to delay the transport sector’s introduction into the scheme until 2011.

The irony is that is these moves - ostensibly to reduce costs to ordinary New Zealanders – are actually going to deprive ordinary Kiwis of valued social services. Every free pollution credit that the Government gives to big business or the agriculture sector represents money that won’t be spent on hospitals and schools. Worse, polluters will have less incentive to change their ways, thereby increasing our greenhouse gas emissions and Kyoto obligation. And who has to pick up that Kyoto bill? Taxpayers.

Jeannette Fitzsimons
The Green Party's Jeanette Fitzsimons has challenged the PM to admit she is not interested in sustainability or carbon neutrality, and give back her UN award for being a "champion of the environment".
So for the Government to act all Robin Hood and like it’s doing Betty in Fielding a favour is nothing short of farcical. Make no mistake, the people who’ll suffer the most from this extraordinary backdown are ordinary New Zealanders. Meanwhile who’ll suffer most in the long term from inaction on climate change? Oh, that’s right - that would be everyone.

Greenpeace argues the Government should auction pollution credits under the scheme instead, which will allow the money made from auction to be invested in households so that ordinary New Zealanders can afford to adjust.

Today, Greenpeace will appear before the Select Committee, and argue our case for an emissions trading scheme that actually stands for something and doesn’t equate to little more than a corporate subsidy.

We will say we support the general principle of the scheme, but as it stands, it will fail to achieve the necessary emission cuts. We’ll call for agriculture to be brought into the scheme within the next two years, for polluting industries not to be subsidised with free permits, and for the scheme to be coupled with an overall domestic emissions reduction target for New Zealand.

But mostly we will call for the Government not to bow to predictable and outmoded opposition from big business to any and every climate change solution that’s been tabled to date. Fight back Helen, you alleged climate hero you.