According to a leading financier, carbon credit broker Nigel Brunel, of OMF Financial, New Zealand has become “a bit of a joke” in Europe as National/ACT looks set to delay, even abolish, our Emissions Trading Scheme.
If you’ll forgive me an anecdote, I’m reminded of the introduction seminar when I was at uni in Finland. We were being told what a great country Finland is, sophisticated, egalitarian compassionate. The speaker told us ‘in 1906, Finland was the first country to give women the vote’. Well, my hand shot up – ‘no, it was New Zealand in 1893’ (turns out, it’s more complicated than that). The point is, every country likes to be able to tell itself that it leads the world, especially a wee, easily-overlooked settler-state at the bottom of the world. We love to claim to have led the world on women’s suffrage, the 40-hour week, the welfare state, going nuclear-free. We see ourselves as a society that others should seek to emulate: fair to its members and protective of its environment.
How embarrassing, then, that we have given up our leadership role on climate change and, instead, become a joke. Even as the rest of the world, with the US finally on board, redoubles its efforts to deal with this threat we are moving in the opposite direction.
How backward are we becoming? Well, 17 years after the world’s governments signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change – after years of negotiations the world’s nations agreed there was a real problem. No serious country denies the reality of climate change. Yet, National/ACT is set to have a committee of politicians re-examine the science. While the US and Australia rush to catch up with emissions reduction schemes like our world-leading ETS, National/ACT is going to look at ‘adaption’ instead. That is, rather than reduce the problem now, National/ACT wants to talk about how our descendants can make do in a hotter, stormier, more flooded world that we leave them.
It’s not just our pride, or even just our environment, at stake. Our economy loses out too, Brunel says:
‘We are the antipodes of Europe. Their time zone is the exact opposite of ours, and there’s a real opportunity to have a 24-hour carbon market that starts in Europe and when they go into their night we take over. ‘There is real interest in that because carbon is such an important market over there. Some very big players were very keen to establish a market down here because of the ability to then create a 24-hour market. ‘This was New Zealand’s opportunity to reinvent its financial markets by being the Asian centre of the carbon trade.’
But this week’s announcement that the incoming government will put the ETS on hold pending a review that will go as far as considering a carbon tax instead of an ETS and will re-examine the validity of the science behind climate change, has jeopardised everything
‘We have just fallen off the radar in Europe,’ he said. ‘They are saying â€˜all you do is talk. You’ve been talking since 1992. You are all talk and no action. You maintain that you are so clean and green and try to be leaders and all you do is nothing. You make a decision and then you change your minds. How can we do business with people like that? We can’t take your seriously’.’