Remember FART (Farmers Against Ridiculous Taxes)? Shane Arden driving Myrtle the Tractor up the steps of Parliament? Bill English with his poster carrying the sexist attack on Helen Clark: “the mad cow shouldn’t have signed”? (actually, it was Jenny Shipley who signed us on to Kyoto)
All that wailing and gnashing of teeth, all the dire warnings that New Zealand agriculture would be destroyed were over a levy on ruminant livestock amounting to $300 a year per farm on average (less than quarter of the annual value of milksolids production from a single dairy cow*) was over a levy to fund research into reducing methane emissions (mostly in the form of burps, actually) from ruminants, which accounts for 30% of New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions.
The farmers wailed that they shouldn’t be singled out. If there was going to be a price paid for tackling this climate warming thingie that was obviously just a scam by all those “science” types then everyone should contribute, not just farmers.
In classic style, Labour backed down because they didn’t want to piss off people who were ideologically opposed to them anyway. They proposed a carbon tax. But the right opposed that too, calling for an emissions trading scheme – more market-orientated you see, and it let them paint Labour as greedy overtaxers.
The 2005 election left Labour without the numbers to get a carbon tax through, so they (eventually) came up with and passed an ETS. How did the right react? By opposing it of course. ACT is back to wanting a carbon tax, National wants something that wouldn’t do anything, and what’s Federated Farmers calling for? You guessed it: an emissions reduction research levy… a fart tax.
The fact is the right will always oppose any specific policy to tackle climate change, no matter how much the left tries to compromise and chase them, they’ll always find an excuse for backing out because at the end of the day they have their heads in the sand. They choose to ignore the climate change disaster that is looming because the solutions require collective action and restraint of capitalism. The right might say they would support a certain policy, but when it comes time to sign on, they’ll always have an excuse. Now, they say ‘we’ll support an ETS, if it’s weaker’ but they’ll back out of any serious measure.
They’ve been leading us on this merry dance for a decade. All the while greenhouse gas concentrations, and the world’s temperature, keep on rising. How much longer are we going to keep going around and around?
[PS. economists say the impact of a tax or cap and trade on a business is the same. Cap and trade has the advantage of the cap on emissions being set by policy and the price decided by the market, whereas in the tax the policy makers have to set the price hoping it will result in the right level of emissions, but a tax is simpler and doesn’t create a financial market with all the accompanying rorting]