Disaster recovery lumbers on in the North Island while the Ukrainians mark one year since Putin’s invasion. The National Party all but adopts ACT’s policy on Three Waters; dump co-governance, return the assets to councils, then fund and regulate them to manage the pipes democratically. It shows two things: real change is possible and ACT is necessary to drive it.


James Shaw and the Greens have had their climate catastrophe, but not the way they expected. Meanwhile the National Party has picked the worst possible time to board the Greens’ sinking ship.

Last week Free Press touched on the failure of the Government’s climate policies as seen under cyclone Gabrielle. Labour, the Greens and, don’t forget, New Zealand First and National all went all in when they voted for the Zero Carbon Act. The rest of the world missed the memo, though, and global emissions kept rising.

At the same time, New Zealand has not done enough to adapt to the consequences of climate change, which will be driven by others’ emissions regardless of what New Zealand does. It’s an enormous miscalculation. with massive consequences.

What we didn’t predict is just how shattered the Greens are. It is not only because of the physical damage being done, but the damage to their entire political project. The thirty second version is this: James Shaw has been the Climate Change Minister of over five years. The Green Party are no longer radicals throwing ‘truth-bombs’ at the establishment. They are the establishment and the truth is they’ve failed. Green MPs are visibly shaking as a result.

How have they failed? Let us count the ways.

Reducing New Zealand’s emissions was never going to change the climate. That doesn’t mean New Zealanders shouldn’t do their bit. It does mean we should recognise reality.

Unfortunately with the Greens leading on climate change for the past five years we’ve seen a whole series of emission reduction policies with adaptation an afterthought. The costs have been huge, and we’re still unprepared for the effects of emissions from other countries.

ACT alone opposed the Zero Carbon Act because it’s a license for Ministers to meddle in the economy; banning this, taxing that, and subsidising the other thing. The meddling is not only costly but does not work. Taxing one person who buys a ute and subsidising another who buys a Tesla does not reduce New Zealand’s overall emissions. Those are already capped under the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Ditto banning oil and gas exploration or subsidising home insulation. If these policies work for some people, they simply free up their carbon credits for others to emit. That’s because the  national cap under the ETS is the same.

But, just to tease out the issue a little further, what if the Government had used the policy that actually reduced New Zealand emissions?

What if they had lowered the cap on carbon emissions, forcing up the price of carbon credits, and pushing people to reduce their emissions in the most efficient possible way? That is what ACT would do, but only if New Zealand’s trading partners did it too.

The problem is the rest of the world has not reduced their emissions. Billions of impoverished people around the world still face the choice of burning fossil fuels or malnourishing their children. They’ll make the same choice as any western country did, so even if we do our bit, global emissions will still rise for the foreseeable future.

Even if the Green’s policy had worked to reduce New Zealand emissions, the rest of the world would have made up the difference faster than you can say ‘school strike for climate.’

That’s why New Zealand needs climate adaptation more than it needs emission reduction. Yes New Zealand should ‘do its bit,’ meaning the cap on emissions should shadow emissions by our major trading partners (ACT policy), but Government should not micromanage New Zealanders’ lives towards fanciful zero carbon targets that no other country is serious about achieving.

What there should be is an effort to adapt to changes in climate where necessary. The $4.5 billion Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) could be used for adaptation projects, such as preparing coastal roads or flood and slip prone areas. Shockingly it was not used for adaptation.

As Grant Robertson admitted under questioning from David Seymour at last week’s Finance and Expenditure Committee, not a single CERF dollar signed off in 2022 was for adaptation. Instead the money was for things like $15 million on Low Emission Transport Fund Freight Decarbonisation Grants 2022-2027 or $13 million on Renewable Energy in Public and Māori Housing. So it goes on.

Then things got weirder at question time with Climate Change Minister James Shaw swapping roles to ask the questions of his Prime Minister. Questions such as “What immediate actions will he take to ensure that building resilience and adapting to more frequent and extreme weather events is at the heart of the recovery to Cyclone Gabrielle?” Then there’s Chloe Swarbrick visibly shaking when she talks about climate change, but it’s her party that’s failed to deal with it through a massive strategic blunder.

This from the Minister of Climate Change for five years who’s focused on everything but adaptation. The political problem for the Greens is even greater. The one area where voters rate them ahead of any other party is climate change. People vote Green because, despite their numerous other failings, they’re number one on climate change, and climate change is number one on a decent chunk of voters’ agenda.

The problem for them is the catastrophe came, and it’s only a matter of time before their voters realise they did not understand the problem or competently deal with it for New Zealanders. Instead they doled out billions in corporate welfare that didn’t solve the problem.

The only remaining question is why National are choosing this time to double down on their commitment to working with the Greens on climate change?

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