A survey out today concludes that New Zealand householders don’t want to pay lots of money for an emissions trading scheme (ETS). Talk about stating the bloody obvious. Of course average New Zealanders don’t want to cover the cost of big business’ pollution. Yet the survey questions aren’t put this way. They fail to make it clear to respondents that taxpayers are already subsidising polluters under Kyoto, and that with no ETS they’ll pay even more. Instead they present a case of “ETS and associated costs or no ETS”.
This is ridiculous. Even if there were no ETS in place this time next year, climate change will still exist, and so will our soaring Kyoto bill. An ETS is designed to shift climate costs from taxpayers to those doing the polluting. The New Zealand scheme will do this, albeit to a minuscule degree. Greenpeace has always said the scheme is weak, and this allocation of costs distinctly unfair. But it’s better than nothing, and without it, costs for taxpayers will be even higher.
As the recent Sustainability Council report points out: householders account for 30% of NZ emissions, but the current design of the ETS will see them paying for 92%, thus subsidising agriculture and other polluting industries. This is clearly wrong and Greenpeace has consistently called for the scheme to be strengthened so that polluting businesses shoulder more of the cost (in other words, actually pay for their emissions themselves). But we have come hard up against big business, which continues to lobby government for even less accountability.
The survey out today is funded by National Party strategist Matthew Hooten’s PR company. Mr Hooten has been a vocal opponent of the ETS, most notably in his bi-weekly right-wing column in the Sunday Star Times. His company represents business interests which are vehemently against the scheme. While Mr Hooten was very careful to dot all the I’s and cross the T’s with the veracity of the actual survey (employing reputable polling agency Digipoll to carry it out and even getting a Labour Party pollster to pen the questions) the bulk of it is misleading. New Zealanders, already rightly confused by the complexities of the scheme, are lured into believing that the ETS will render New Zealand a world leader in tackling climate change (it won't) and that climate costs won’t exist if the ETS doesn’t pass (completely untrue, as explained above).
If big business now stands up, points to this poll and says “poor householders” I will at best blaspheme and at worse kick something. If Hooten is so worried about householders, he should advise his clients to pay their fair share under the ETS and stop pushing for further taxpayer subsidies.
All that said, some of the survey is actually really promising. Almost 57 per cent of respondents say they think the legislation should pass regardless of specific concerns, and 87.4 per cent are willing to act personally or accept some costs to reduce the effects of climate change. Most want New Zealand to be a world leader on tackling climate change, if not THE world leader. It’s now up to our political leaders to heed New Zealanders wishes and get on with it.