Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Free Press, 01 November 2021


The Haps 

This Sunday, the End of Life Choice Bill comes into law. ACT expanded New Zealanders’ freedom, 26 years after Michael Laws first introduced his Death with Dignity Bill. The Prime Minister still won’t visit Auckland. David Seymour has. He says you can’t understand it until you go. The Prime Minister says Auckland can move to Alert Level 3 Step 2, but not this week because “schools need to bed in.” If you have any idea what that means, please contact us.

Glasgow 

James Shaw is jetting off to Glasgow with a promise that New Zealand will reduce its net carbon emissions to 50 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. Where to start with this?

New Zealand was not going to reach the old, more modest target (30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030). From 2005 to 2019, New Zealand’s net emissions dropped only four per cent. They’ve risen since Jacinda Ardern said ‘climate change is this generation’s nuclear free moment’ but she has always been better at sales than delivery.

That’s not to mention record levels of coal imports to (barely) keep the lights on with record power prices, the fact that the Government actually delayed its own climate emergency (truly), and the fact that even the Government is not converting to electric vehicles the way it promised. But, we’re going to halve carbon emissions in the next nine years.

Announcing an even more ridiculous goal is one way of covering up the fact you failed at the last one. The only problem is you can’t do it forever, it’s like borrowing off loan sharks to pay off the old ones. Eventually, the house of cards collapses.

The Aussies are taking a much more sensible approach. Their commitment is to reduce net emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent down from 2005 levels by 2030. They’ve shown they might achieve it, too.

It’s probably a good time to think about what New Zealand is trying to achieve with climate policy. Do we want policy that changes the climate, protects our image in foreign eyes, or allows people to provide for their economic needs?

It can’t be changing the climate. Even if the country disappeared tomorrow, the 0.17 per cent of carbon emissions from New Zealanders would not make a difference. 

What could make a difference is putting efficient New Zealand producers out of business. The Government could raise global emissions by shifting the world to beef, lamb and dairy that’s produced with greater emissions.

Our image in foreign eyes matters. Our competitors around the world can and will rag on New Zealand exports if they can paint the country as a climate pariah. Trade deals will get harder, and consumers will turn away from New Zealand goods.

Providing for New Zealanders’ welfare depends on getting climate policy right. Not so aggressive that it pushes production offshore, but not so flippant that consumers buy from offshore.

New Zealand should have a climate policy that keeps us in sync with our trading partners with minimal bureaucracy and minimal economic damage. Unfortunately, what we have now couldn’t be further from these goals.

Every party but ACT voted for the Zero Carbon Act. It is an incredibly stupid piece of legislation that requires the Government of the day to set carbon budgets for every sector every four years. These budgets should put the country on track for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It fails to keep us in sync with our partners around the world, because it means even if they don’t bother New Zealand has to carry on a lemming-like path to destruction. 

It also fails to minimise bureaucracy, instead trying to decide what sort of engines peoples’ cars should have, what sort of stoves restaurants should use, and so on. It’s the worst of all worlds.

ACT’s approach is simple. We should set a cap on New Zealand emissions in line with what our top five trading partners emit. The Emissions Trading Scheme, already in place, allows a cap to be set. We already pay for carbon emissions when we buy petrol, electricity, and so on.

There won’t be any rules about who can buy what ute, we won’t try to redesign suburbs, it will be up to people to make their own decisions based on prices under the ETS. Plus, New Zealanders should be able to buy foreign credits too. Why shouldn’t we pay Brazilians to reseed the Amazon if it’s cheaper than planting pine trees all over New Zealand?

With ACT’s no-nonsense climate policy, we could stay in sync with our trading partners, sack the climate change commission, get rid of ridiculous rules, and save money if foreign carbon credits are cheaper. Now we just have to convince the National Party, who voted for the Zero Carbon Act.