Last year John Key announced National’s â€˜Blue-Green’ Strategy. It contained the first shadow of acknowledgment from National that climate change is a serious issue: a target to reduce greenhouse gas emission to 50% of 1990 levels by 2050. Of course, setting a target for a time when most of your MPs will be dead is easy; the hard part is coming up with an actual policy to get there, and the Blue-Green strategy provided no hint of how National would go about making reductions happen.
Now, there is a reductions policy going through the legislative process. The Emissions Trading Scheme is late in coming and weak but will start a reduction in New Zealand’s emissions, sufficient to save New Zealand half a billion dollars off the cost of buying carbon credits for failing to meet the reductions target we pledged in the Kyoto Protocol. And National, after yet another flip-flop, now opposes the ETS.
In fact, National has opposed every concrete measure to reduce greenhouse emissions. First, the livestock levy (hilariously nicknamed the Fart tax), then the carbon tax, and now the ETS. Sure it has an excuse: â€˜the ETS is being developed too hurriedly’ (we’re six years into its development) but what this really comes down to is that National will always put the short-term interests of big business (= big emitters) first, ahead of doing anything to reduce emissions. It’s all very well to speak of halving emissions by 2050 but, when push comes to shove, National has shown it will always do nothing.
Key talks a big game on climate change (and on incomes, emigration, infrastructure, health, education, and productivity) but his words are hollow. When it comes time to actually do something, to get behind real work that will make a difference, Key is always missing in action.
[The Greens should support the ETS, to ensure it passes. It is flawed but now it is clear that there will be no serious emissions reductions policy under a National government. The ETS is the only game in town, and the Greens owe it to the environment to play. In return for their support, the Greens should demand more Government funding for helping households transition to low-carbon technologies.]