The report of the special select committee on the Emissions Trading Scheme has been released. I’ve only had a chance to read the recommendations and the minority reports (the whole thing is 130 pages).
The committee (with the exception of ACT) says that the climate change is a real and serious environmental and economic threat to New Zealand, which we should try to reduce. A good start.
Unfortunately, having called ‘something must be done!’ in the first recommendation, the majority (National and Peter Dunne) then sets about recommending we do less than what we would under the existing ETS. The majority calls for the price of carbon credits to be capped initially for an undefined period, which effectively means the taxpayer would be subsidising polluters and would lessen the price incentive for planting new carbon sink forests. The majority agrees that all gases and all sectors, including agriculture, should be in the ETS but kicks for touch over the crucial issue of when they should enter. Export-exposed industries would receive an allocation of credits based on their carbon intensity (ie how many dollars they produce for every tonne of carbon, similar to what Harper was looking at in Canada). This potentially allows exporters to increase their emissions for free, rather than capping emissions at the current amount and gradually lowing the cap.
The Maori party minority report is there. It’s very strongly anti weakening the ETS, as proposed by the majority. It restates the fact that the Maori Party believes the ETS as it stands is too generous to polluters and adds they “would do so more strongly if a replacement scheme were to be less effective and more inequitable. “
Labour’s minority report is largely consistent with the Greens, both calling for us to get on with the ETS we have. They set out basic requirements of an ETS and say that the majority report is clearly an attempt to weaken the ETS, mentioning problems including the ones I’ve touched on above. Labour offers some compromises to keep the ETS essentially intact if the Government insists on weakening it and the Greens offer options that would strengthen it but lament that the majority seems uninterested in those. Labour adds a little crack at the way the government is choosing to conduct itself:
“The Labour Party regards the select committee process as a massive waste of public time and resources. We endorse the process concerns expressed by the Green Party. We also observe that, despite having insisted on the setting up of the committee and contributing a lengthy minority report, the Act Party has not deigned to attend most of the committee’s meetings. It would have been far preferable for the Government to have tabled amending legislation to the existing law for the committee to consider. “
The (very long) ACT minority report starts with “The essence of the matter is that New Zealanders are being asked to cut their incomes on the grounds that “science” has proven beyond reasonable doubt that future human-induced climate change” and goes downhill from there. I can just picture the ACT MP in the hearings: ‘You and your “science”, ppifff, next you’ll be expecting me to believe that all those little specks in the night sky are balls of hydrogen and helium millions of kilometres in diameter undergoing fusion reactions.’
The majority report basically calls vaguely for the ETS to be weakened. It’s up to Key now whether the government takes this report as a cover for a serious reversal on tackling climate change or sticks with the status quo so that, finally, we can begin doing something as a nation about this most serious of threats.