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Greens must not let ETS fail

Written By: - Date published: 2:20 pm, May 28th, 2008 - 45 comments
Categories: climate change, greens - Tags:

The Dompost reports that the Greens will not vote for the Emissions Trading Scheme if the introduction of transport fuels into the scheme and the end of free allocation of credits are delayed. Without the Greens, the Bill will probably not pass.

I have a lot of sympathy for the Greens’ position. The ETS is not all it could be as a scheme to tackle climate change. BUT it is the only game in town. If the ETS does not pass there will be no carbon pricing scheme. Don’t think for a second that National would introduce one. They want the ETS to fail and always have. When push comes to shove, National will always be on the side of the pollutors.

The Greens must be able to find some arrangement with labour to support the scheme in return for some policy concession – a subsidy on the construction of renewable power generation, for example, to encourage renewables and keep electricity prices down, or a major low-carbon technology research and development prpgramme.

It’s no use the Greens cutting off their nose to spite their face. Better to have the ETS in place as a foundation for climate change policy going forward than a policy vacuum.

45 comments on “Greens must not let ETS fail”

  1. I think the Greens have to take a principled stand on this one and vote against the ETS. To do anything else would risk being perceived as being little more than “Labour lime”.

  2. T-rex 2

    Absolutely agree Steve.

    Brian, do you have any idea how transparent you are? National could make their fibre optic network out of you.

  3. Matthew Pilott 3

    If they vote against it, I’d see it as being analogous to Australia or the US refusing to ratify Kyoto – because it wasn’t a perfect treaty, they didn’t sign.

    Here’s the big news – nothing is perfect. In this case, they should take what they get (while being free, of course, to agitate for more), or NZ will have no useful legislation on the issue and the Greens will sacrifice a start towards their goals for the sake of making a stand.

    Bryan – how so? If this is the best ETS they can get, why not support it while working towards a better one?

    I never picked you for the “useless principled stand” kind of person.

  4. Lew 4

    Bryan Spondre: Since I believe you’re on record saying how climate change is bollocks, I fail to see why the Greens would take policy advice from you. A principled stand which resulted in the government being unable to pass the ETS bill would likely result in a National government refusing to consider such measures in their first term, and would relegate the Greens to the ranks of quixotic one-issue ideologues rather than bolstering their current reputation as flexible, co-operative, accessible politicians concerned with praxis. As Idiot/Savant said, perfect has been the enemy of good enough.

    I think the Greens are playing brinksmanship here – and I think Labour knows this and will partially concede to their agenda in the spirit of future collaboration. The question is whether the Greens are prepared to risk further jeopardising Labour’s election campaign by insisting on rolling back exemptions from the ETS. Is a strong ETS worth a National government?

    But I love the term `Labour lime’ – is it a BS original?

    L

  5. alex 5

    SP – agreed, Green should bite the bullet on the ETS.

    Also, why do Labour need the Greens for it to pass… I’m guessing this means NZ First are not supporting it… why not?

  6. Matthew/Lew: If this wasn’t election year then I would agree with you that the Greens might be better off going for a compromise. But I think the issue is rather like Winston’s rejection of the China FTA: a chance to differentiate themselves.

  7. alex. I understand the Maori Party is opposed, not sure why, and United Future is probably against but are dragging out their flip on it, like National was. I think NZF are for it. Don’t quote me, but i think that’s how they lie.

  8. Matthew Pilott 8

    Bryan – so it’s about playing the game, and not acting according to the interests of those who voted for them…?

    I actually doubt your premise Bryan – I don’t think environmentally conscious voters would be turned off by the Greens supporting a less-than-ideal ETS. I think they’d see it for what it is, bowing to pragmatism – and at least a tangible framework would be in place. That’s just a difference of opinion between us though, I doubt I can justify my thoughts on the issue any more reasonably than you could so we may have to disagree here!

    One big difference between Winston/FTA and Greens/ETS – the FTA was already going to happen, so Winson’s bickering wasn’t relevant. If the greens disagree, there may not be an ETS – a far more consequential disagreement!

  9. Joker 9

    Maybe we should give up the ETS and give This a try.

    Too many people for it to work in the UK but could be interesting here.

  10. mike 10

    The greens are desperate and are trying to look pricipled instead of like Labours lap dog.
    Any comprimise on the fuel tax introduction will be lept on by the Nats at a time when people are seriously struggling to pay the bills.

    It is playing the game Matt but this is election year.

  11. Edosan 11

    I doubt at the end of the day they will oppose it, but I think it’s important they put across their reservations to the public.
    National will want to hurry this in before the election so that they can blame any consequences on the labour administration should they get into power. If there are major problems with the ETS (becasue of its hurried nature) the Greens will have positioned themselves well for after the election as well.

  12. erikter 12

    Are you now advocating flexibility and malleability of principles in this case, the very same sin you accuse John Key of?

    The Greens have no choice but to stand their ground and reject the ETS in their current form. Otherwise, they will rightly seen and perceived by the electorate as Labour minions.

    The Standard’s pragmatism never ceases to amaze (when convenient, of course)!

  13. Stephen 13

    How do you balance that against being ‘independent’, but not getting anything done?

  14. Matthew: thats a good point about Winston and the FTA.

  15. Lew 15

    mike: “It is playing the game Matt but this is election year.”

    It hinges on how much support you think the Greens will gain if they refuse to support the ETS.

    Suppose that by `win’ I mean that Labour needs a coalition including the Greens to govern, but National can govern alone or with ACT only after the coming election. Let’s look at the possibilities:

    Scenario 1: Greens stand on principle, ETS doesn’t get passed, National wins. Cost: failure to implement core policy, weaker parliamentary influence. Benefit: seen as independent.

    Scenario 2: Greens stand on principle, ETS doesn’t get passed, Labour wins. Cost: 12 month delay on implementing ETS. Benefit: better ETS, much more parliamentary influence, seen as independent.

    Scenario 3: Greens accede and pass the ETS, National wins. Cost: weaker ETS than they’d like, weaker parliamentary influence. Benefit: Seen as independent, National could suffer if it repealed the ETS.

    Scenario 4: Greens accede and pass the ETS, Labour wins. Cost: Weaker ETS, not seen as independent. Benefit: Much more parliamentary influence, opportunity to improve the ETS, Labour would be somewhat indebted to them.

    The only scenario which sees the Green Party worse off than they are now is Scenario 1, which is one possibility from what all the righties are suggesting.

    erikter: “Are you now advocating flexibility and malleability of principles in this case, the very same sin you accuse John Key of?”

    It’s not the same. The Greens’ principles are known and declared, and as Edosan says they must make clear that they’re making a one-off concession to pragmatism. John Key’s principles are not well known and have never been firmly declared.

    At this point I think the government will throw the Greens a bone, making a minor but symbolic compromise on the ETS, and they will support it.

    L

    Captcha: `possible passage’. What the Greens want isn’t that the ETS ‘ passage be `possible’, it’s that it be guaranteed.

    Edit: Of course, there are other scenarios I haven’t canvassed here, such as the Greens being left out of parliament entirely or National needing a coalition to govern. These are an exercise for the reader 🙂

  16. Matthew Pilott 16

    The Greens have no choice but to stand their ground and reject the ETS in their current form

    Sorry erikter, that went right past me – how is voting towards an ETS going against the Greens’ principles?

    I’d be stoked if you can point to a passage in Green Party policy that explicitly states “The Greens are opposed to an ETS that is weakened from a previous iteration of said ETS” or similar, or I’ll have to accuse you of stirring…

    I haven’t personally accused Key of having any principles, let alone those of a malleable nature!

    Mike, does that automatically mean government should get nothing done in an election year, because all aspects of MMP have to be abandoned for a zero-sum attitude?

  17. Stephen 17

    Nice work Lew.

  18. dave 18

    The Greens need to be bit daring and inventive. Clark has committed herself to farmers and now the transport industry to defer the ETS. She needs to take a more direct approach.
    A carbon tax for farmers is needed. If they have spare cash it should go into cleanups now not buying shares or put in the bank to buy future credits for pollution. The ETS is a clumsy solution that invites speculation.
    The oil monopoly needs to be broken. I am for the state setting up a state oil company and doing swaps with Venezuela. A lower price would allow a carbon tax for electric rail and buses to replace cars.

  19. The ETS is not, as you state, “the only game in town”. There are plenty of better options, but Labour simply refuses to countenance them. How this is the fault of the Greens is beyond me. The Greens can get a lot better than this rotten old bone of a climate policy – I say they wait. They have nothing to gain from this legislation, other than a better relationship with slimy Labour politicians.

  20. “The Greens need to be bit daring and inventive”

    Labour needs to be daring and inventive. The Greens have plenty of innovative ways to tackle climate change without causing hardship to New Zealanders, but they’re consistently ignored. Of course, having Winston, Dunne and Anderton at the cabinet table is a recipe for disaster.

  21. I have to agree with Brian Spondre. The Greens aren’t Labour’s lapdog or NZ First’s poodle either. If Labour and the Greens both want a viable emissions scheme and NZ First won’t play ball, then that’s how it has to play out. NZ First can line up with National and any other party that doesn’t understand how important this is NOW.

    To be fair, a large mass of the public don’t know why this is important now (or very much about a huge number of things, to be honest)…..and maybe that’s how it has to go. Ultimately, voters have to get their ‘proverbial’ together and PAY ATTENTION. Otherwise anyone who gets too far ahead of them will be scapegoated at the first sign of difficulties and the whole thing will backslide. For the ETS to stick, the electorate has to be behind it. No use being ‘out in front’ and getting your head chopped off. If now is not the time then let voters wear the consequences for that. It’s their call and their responsibility. Governments shouldn’t be babysitters for the accidentally or willfully ignorant. Baby will have a tantrum and shoot government in the head.

  22. nommopilot 22

    from what I can tell the ETS may actually do the opposite of what it intends: taxes from small companies trying to make themselves sustainable go toward subsidising expanded industrial farming and transport.

    I think if the legislation is worth than not having a scheme at all then the greens are right not to vote for it. Jeanette’s interview the other day (National Radio, monday I think) was excellent in pointing out the weaknesses and putting forward the green’s case. Just because it’s the only game in town doesn’t make it worth playing.

    I’d link to it, but the radio NZ website crashes my firefox immediately for some reason…

  23. nommopilot 23

    some of Jeanette’s suggestions IIRC included bringing nem farm conversions into the ETS immediately, and fertilizer.

    of course, if fertilizer were included that might see some increased emissions costs on the beehive as well…

    (captcha: biased was)

  24. merl 24

    I second George Darroch.

    Labour is taking the Greens for granted by expecting them to follow this policy as the lesser of two evils.

  25. Lew 25

    I was going to ask Keith Locke this at Back Benches last night, but never got the chance: `Are you confident that if Labour fails to pass the ETS, National will pass a better one if elected to government?’

    I’d like to hear answers from some of you greenies. It seems to me like y’all are either supremely confident of a Labour win, or supremely confident of the bluegreens.

    L

  26. alex 26

    bluegreens, heh.

  27. erikter 27

    “Labour is taking the Greens for granted by expecting them to follow this policy as the lesser of two evils.”

    Indeed. And it’s all possible because of the Greens’ flexible principles and accommodating nature. They are ready to compromise … if the price and perks are right.

    The Green Party lust for power is stronger than its principles.

  28. T-rex 28

    Erikter, you are a troll.

    Lew – as a green voter, I’d like the greens to get the best they can out of Labour. If Labour wants their support, they SHOULD make some concessions! I forget the exact percentage, but if the greens won 6% of the party vote last time around that means they represent around 200,000 people.

    I’m not confident National will pass any useful form of ETS. If the existing ETS fails due to lack of support from the greens I will be supremely pissed, but I think Labour should make some concession to get their support.

    I don’t, however, think that transport emissions should form part of that concession. The political cost (given peoples obsession with petrol price and the “out of touch” label that’s already being applied to Labour) is far higher than the minimal benefit of the impact it will have on usage. My view? They should push for increasing the subsidy towards the solar hot water initiative as the carrot. That will directly lower emissions AND reduce power demand.

  29. erikter 29

    No, I’m not a troll T-rex. I’m just stating the obvious: the Greens have been Labour’s doormat most of the time, and have compromised, if not surrendered, at every turn.

    Your suggestion of subsidies for solar power is to be taken as another green joke. When the time arrives for that technology, it will accessible to the masses and there will be no need for a subsidy.

    Like it or not, you cannot control a capitalist market.

  30. T-rex 30

    “They are ready to compromise if the price and perks are right.

    The Green Party lust for power is stronger than its principles.”

    They gain no power by being “labours doormat”, so your argument is inherently flawed to begin with. Furthermore, how is voting in favour of legislation that’s aligned with green policy unprincipled?

    Your suggestion of subsidies for solar power is to be taken as another green joke. When the time arrives for that technology, it will accessible to the masses and there will be no need for a subsidy.

    You quite clearly have absolutely no idea of how to encourage promising fringe technology to becomes mainstream. The argument you make here is exactly the same as that which was made when Germany introduced feed in tarrifs for renewable energy – especially solar. Everyone who made it has since been proven wrong.

  31. T-rex 31

    Actually I’ve got a better idea – the greens should push for the formation of a small-scale energy equivalent of pharmac, and in doing so bypass all the gougers (your capitalists) who are obstructing large scale uptake.

  32. We’re now, by law, no more than five and a half months away from an election. Labour has already had to back away from a significant portion of its flagship Emissions Trading legislation. Would we not all be better off if the proposed legislation was parked until after the election? Then, once the dust of the campaign has settled, there may even be the opportunity for cross-party consensus.

    We are seeing daily that the EFA is bad law, and we know how rushed that piece of legislation was. The ETS is far too important for indecent haste. I am reminded of a Latin proverb from my schooldays – many, many years ago, which seems very applicable to the passage of this legislation – Festina Lente – hasten slowly.

  33. The ETS has been under development for three years.

  34. So why the rush now?

  35. Lew 35

    Inventory2: This is a strawman as well, since it’s not being rushed as Steve says.

    The idea of cross-party consensus has merit, though, since an ETS passed by grand coalition would be almost immutable to future governments’ tinkering. The question Labour and the Greens have to ask themselves before considering that road is how much they trust National to implement an ETS scheme strong enough to make a significant difference to NZ’s Kyoto obligations. At present I don’t think either party has much confidence in National, and given Key’s recent equivocations I can’t say I blame them.

    This might fly if Key was to release some firm ETS policy.

    “So why the rush now?”

    Because if Labour can’t win the coming election it’s likely to be now or never.

    L

  36. T-rex 36

    Inventory – Whatever happens, we’re also only 3 1/2 years from the point where we have to start paying for our emissions. Personally, I’d rather see polluters internalise the costs of their emissions sooner rather than later, so people have a direct incentive to reduce emissions sooner rather than later. Distributed responsibility (which is what exists without an ETS) rarely gets anything done.

    Personally, I remain unconvinced by the man-made global warming argument. But considering most of the short term emissions reduction actions make good sense regardless I honestly don’t care. We’re facing an electricity shortage and an oil shortage, and are beginning to see the effects of ongoing ocean acidification. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to start installing efficient lightbulbs, insulating houses, and switching to high efficiency transport now? And regardless of whether coal/gas power plants contribute to global warming, they definitely are finite in availability.

    The ETS creates an additional economic incentive to do what already makes environmental AND economic sense. By the time we run out of no brainer behaviour changes in 10 years time maybe we’ll have more of an idea of what our goals should be.

    You sound like everyone else from big industry. “We LOVE the idea of an emissions reduction scheme, and would be HAPPY to pay for it, we’re just a little concerned about its present ‘structure’. So, while unreservedly supporting the idea, we’re pretty keen to carry on externalising our costs onto the public at large for another few years”. I’m not sure if that’s your intention or not… but the arguments align.

  37. It’s not in a rush, it’s been ongoing for three years, it’s going through the legislative process at the normal pace. God, what a dumb statement.

  38. Steve/Lew – I accept that this has been a long process – my reference to haste concerns the push to get this passed into law before this Parliament dissolves. When the House returned two weeks ago, there were 37 sitting days left this year – assuming an elkection at the latest possible date. We’re now down to 28 days, in turbo-charged, election-focused, point-scoring mode. There’s no guarantee that Labour has the numbers to advance the Bill, so what temptation is there to offer “sweeteners” for support. The run-up to an election is NOT the time for legislation of this significance.

  39. Matthew Pilott 39

    Thus spoke Erikter:

    Indeed. And it’s all possible because of the Greens’ flexible principles and accommodating nature. They are ready to compromise if the price and perks are right.

    The Green Party lust for power is stronger than its principles.

    Your suggestion of subsidies for solar power is to be taken as another green joke. When the time arrives for that technology, it will accessible to the masses and there will be no need for a subsidy.

    Like it or not, you cannot control a capitalist market.

    I think you got called a troll for comments such as these. A little harsh perhaps, but then baseless sweeping generalisations can be construed as such.

    Comment one: You’re quite sure that none of the policies the Green Party hoped to implement have happened? Name a couple of their ‘bottom lines’ they’ve been rolled on.

    And I’m still waiting for the Green policy that says “The Greens are opposed to an ETS that is weakened from a previous iteration of said ETS’ from your last comment – that you didn’t back up.

    Comment two: Tell that to the Germans. Have a look at their use of wind and solar power, and ask youself why Germany is leading the world at production and installation – and why price of production ($/MwH) has dropped so much. Maybe you can’t control a capitalist market, but with the right moves you can heavily influence it (which is good, given the market is a god-awful failure at internalising its own disasterous outcomes).

  40. Matthew Pilott 40

    The run-up to an election is NOT the time for legislation of this significance.

    Inventory2 – so you’re saying that during one third of the time, the government should have a moratorium on getting important things done? Surely not.

    So how do you decide that, say, Cullen can give a budget, but something like the ETS is a no-go. I’m afraid your viewpoint seems to lack a degree of practicality.

  41. T-rex 41

    Matt – High five

  42. alex 42

    Heh, the government should do nothing for one third of the time.

  43. Matthew Pilott 43

    T-rex – I somehow completely missed your comment at 9:58, but seemed to rather strongly echo it!

    Regarding your post at 11:25, I have one distinction. in the end, it is not producers that will pay for pollution – the costs are always passed on to the consumer. But internalising the costs of consumption is really what it is all about, even if the method is to internalise the costs of production.

    edit alex – none of that cynicism thank you very much!

  44. Draco TB 44

    When the time arrives for that technology, it will accessible to the masses and there will be no need for a subsidy.

    Like it or not, you cannot control a capitalist market.

    The time for that technology was thirty years ago.

    Like it or not, the capitalist market doesn’t actually work.

  45. Jamesey 45

    erikter

    Hmm, like the railroad, electricity, atomic, airline, car and computer industries came about without extensive government intervention on their behalf.

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