Written By: - Date published: 10:06 am, June 17th, 2018 - 94 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment, ETS, global warming, greens, labour, national, same old national, Simon Bridges, sustainability - Tags:
Bob Harvey, who in my view is one of the most astute and visionary of politicians had a favourite saying, that in politics it was wrong to be right too soon.
He borrowed the saying from Michael Moore, one of my less favourite Labour politicians, but the saying is very relevant for progressive politicians. Because the battle with the conservatives is to bring them kicking and screaming to accept that a new idea is a good idea, and that something actually has to be done about a problem. Otherwise it will become an even bigger problem.
In the meantime the right attack and ridicule and rely on the general population’s reluctance to accept dramatic change and they gain a short term advantage. Until the problem is undeniable and they have to do something. And hope that the general population forget the crap they have been saying for years up until the time of the great realisation.
Climate change is a classic example of this. Two leaders ago National was saying this:
The impact of the Kyoto Protocol, even if one believes in global warming—and I am somewhat suspicious of it—is that we will see billions and billions of dollars poured into fixing something that we are not even sure is a problem. Even if it is a problem, it will be delayed for about 6 years. Then it will hit the world in 2096 instead of 2102, or something like that. It will not work.
For far too long they thought it was not a problem. Attempts to address it were a waste of time as the effect would be felt in the distant future. This is what John Key was saying as the scientific community were yelling out that we had a major crisis. And that we had to be doing something radical about it. In 2005. Otherwise it would be too late.
To be fair to Key by 2007 he was saying something different.
The National Party will ensure that New Zealand acts decisively to confront this challenge.
The scientific consensus is clear: human-induced climate change is real and it’s threatening the planet. There are some armchair sceptics out there, but I’m not one of them.
All New Zealanders want to preserve our world and the way of life it affords us, our children and our grandchildren. That ideal is not the preserve of the Labour and Green Parties – it’s a Kiwi instinct.
We are fair-minded people, and tackling climate change requires global action – and, as a responsible international citizen, New Zealand should stand up and be counted.
But although the rhetoric was improving the implementation was awful.
Fast forward to 2018. We have an international consensus that yes we do have a crisis. We have Pacific nations pointing out that if we do not keep global warming at a modest level their nations will be no more. The scientific community think that we are at the point of no return.
And this week Simon Bridges gave a speech indicating that climate change should be treated on a bipartisan basis. If only National had done this 20 years ago.
He started off by saying to a farming audience they are the engine room of the economy. Agreed, but they are also part of the problem. Half of our greenhouse gas emissions are from the agricultural sector.
He then moved into mom and apple pie mode.
One of the big long-term challenges we face is protecting the environment.
In a hundred years, when we’re all long gone, I want to be sure our grandchildren will be living in a New Zealand that is still the envy of the world because of its stunning natural environment as well as its prosperity.
I want them to live in a pristine New Zealand, where they can take their children to swim at Piha, or tramp in the Waitakere ranges like I did growing up.
I want our grandchildren to know that all of us have done what we can to protect the environment – our most precious natural resource.
Of course everyone wants the same. It is just some of us have been determined to do something about it for the past couple of decades while others are only now catching up.
Bridges then talked about what the last National Government achieved.
National recognises the importance to New Zealanders – present and future – of addressing climate change, and playing our part in the global response.
We’ve made good progress recently, but we need to do more.
We implemented the world-leading Emissions Trading Scheme, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic productivity.
This will be news to everyone because the last Labour Government introduced the ETS. and National fought it all the way. And then National weakened the scheme considerably when it was in Government until it was not fit for purpose.
But this was not the only comment from Bridges that attracted my attention. He also said that greenhouse gas emissions had been falling.
Since 2008 our greenhouse gas emissions fell, despite a growing economy and growing population.
That is a big deal. In the previous 18 years emissions increased by 25 per cent.
But we now need to wrestle them down further.
I am proud to have been a part of the previous National Government which signed New Zealand up to the Paris agreement with its ambitious challenge of reducing our emissions to 30 per cent less than 2005 levels by 2030.
I was there in Paris as the Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues and I stand by our commitment.
It will be challenging to achieve, and will require an adjustment to our economy. But we must do so.
This is cherrypicked data. Gross emissions are slightly down from 2008 but net emissions are up.
And the policy direction we were heading in was totally wrong.
And Bridges wants to take politics out of climate change, at least nominally.
Today I have written to the Prime Minister and James Shaw, offering to work with them to establish an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission.
I want to work with the Government to make meaningful bi-partisan progress on climate change.
This will be challenging. It will require compromises on both sides.
It will require us all to listen and engage respectfully.
But the prize is too great not to try, and the consequences on our economy, jobs and the environment are too serious if we don’t do so responsibly.
The Climate Change Commission would support New Zealand’s emission reductions by both advising the Government on carbon budgets, and holding the Government to account by publishing progress reports on emissions.
The Commission would be advisory only, with the Government of the day taking final decisions on both targets and policy responses.
There are a number of details I want to work through with the Government before the Commission is launched – such as ensuring the Commission has appropriate consideration for economic impacts as well as environmental, and that the process for appointments to the Commission is also bipartisan.
But I am confident that we can work constructively together to establish an enduring non-political framework for all future governments when considering climate change issues.
Bridges wants a continuation of having a bob each way, of compromise taken on important issues so that business interests are not overtly threatened. It is not bipartisanship that he wants, it is a weak response.
Reaching consensus on appointments to the commission is dangerous. John Key famously thought that it was possible to find scientists, like lawyers, who had counterviews to what may have been considered to be well accepted views. As an example under the last Government the Environmental Protection Agency’s chief scientist thought that irrigation was good for the environment. Federated Farmers must have loved her.
We no longer need “balance” or “compromise” or “bipartisanship”. We need a plan to do our bit to address climate change, by reducing the output of greenhouse gasses and increasing the capture of carbon dioxide by growing forests.
And we don’t need to delay matters any further.
If this is what National and Simon Bridges is promising then all good and the Government can get on with things. But if this is merely a replacement of outright denial with a more nuanced approach designed to delay urgent action being taken then he should rethink this. We need to get on with making dramatic change to the way we treat our planet. And we should have started decades ago.