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Key’s green mask slips

Written By: - Date published: 9:46 am, May 19th, 2008 - 32 comments
Categories: climate change, flip-flop, john key, national, slippery - Tags:

Last year John Key announced National’s ‘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: ‘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.]

32 comments on “Key’s green mask slips”

  1. gobsmacked 1

    There’s an excellent summary by No Right Turn:


    Breathtaking stuff from Key, really.

  2. higherstandard 2

    Good on Key for rejecting this crappy piece of legislation in it’s current form.

    SP your comment that “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. ”

    I find bizarre – perhaps those that are keen for the ETS should perhaps vote for the Greens rather than anyone else as if anyone’s green mask is slipping surely it’s the current government receiving hollow international awards while their actual record is less than spectacular.

  3. rjs131 3

    Hold on, are you suggesting that Key is wrong for not supporting a piece of legislation that you admit is flawed?? If something is flawed, isnt their a duty for MPs to fix those flaws? If there are to be changes isnt then a duty for those MPs to consult those who will be drastically affected by it? What is wrong with not wanting to rush this through or are you confident that the law of common sense, which has worked so well inthe EFA will prevail in this instance.

  4. They oppose it in its current form. Get your shit straight Steve. It’s a piece of shit legislation that deserves to be rejected.

  5. The ETS is too timid and it is late (the EU has had carbon trading for several years) but at least it is a start.

    It is not being rushed through, it is the result of 6 years of policy work.

    National will find a reason to oppose any climate change legislation.

    No need for the language, infused.

  6. There is when everything you post is misleading. They are trying to rush it now, just the the EFB.

  7. higherstandard 7

    And would you say the EU ETS has been a blinding success SP ?

  8. Finally there is a politician who just doesn’t jump on the climate change bandwagon because its popular.

    Hopefully we will finally get a proper debate about Climate change in this country and not one that just preys on peoples emotions.

  9. erikter 9

    “The Greens should support the ETS, to ensure it passes.”

    Of course they will support the ETS. The Greens are suckers for punishment at will do whatever Labour tell them to do.

    Wait for Russell and Jeanette to utter the words agreeing to support this bill. Ah, the watermelon Greens!

  10. Brett.

    The scientific debate on climate change has been settled for 40 years.

    180 nations signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. Now is the time to actually start doing something, rather than always looking for excuses for inaction.

    HS. Emissions are falling in Europe and GDP growth is been unaffected. I’d call that success.

  11. TomS 11

    The business elites in New Zealand are amongst the most unimaginative and mediocre in the world and they cling to outdated new right economic mantras. Given that, its not surprising they are obstinate andeluvian climate change deniers. Their strategy has been clear for some time now: In public accept that climate change is happening and reluctantly agree something should be done whilst in private and via their various lobby groups oppose tooth and nail any initiatives at all in the hope that if they stall long enough they’ll get a National government who will park the whole thing for at least three and hopefully six years. Then they’ll can forget about the whole thing and when the chickens come home to roost blame the government for inaction.

  12. Lew 12

    The question here is whether an imperfect scheme soon is better than a perfect scheme at some unspecified point in the future. There’s a sliding-scale here: material considerations are how imperfect, and at what point in the future. Both the Greens and the maori party have major misgivings about the bill, but if they fail to support it as drafted it won’t pass before the election, and they’d risk leaving it to an incoming National government.

    If they don’t support it the quality of the scheme rests on the outcome of the election. If Labour wins, the scheme would probably be better (from a Green perspective) than it is now because if they win, they’ll almost certainly need both parties (current polling 14 seats) for support, and that means compromise. However its implementation would be delayed about a year. The stronger scheme would likely result in better Kyoto compliance overall despite the delay in implementation, so this represents a small net win for the Greens amd maori party in terms of policy and a large net win for them in terms of their influence in government.

    If National wins, the year’s delay is a minimum figure; given the weakening economy, I believe National would be inclined to delay further. In addition, the resulting bill would probably be worse (from a Green perspective). Significant net loss in terms of both the quality of the policy from their perspective and their influence in government.

    Applying the precautionary principle, there is no question that the Greens and the maori party should support the ETS bill as drafted for passage before the election. To do otherwise shows a recklessly high degree of confidence in Labour to win the election.


  13. higherstandard 13


    From Swedish Green MP Max Andersson regarding the EU ETS

    ?There has so-far been limited questioning of the hazy assertion that the EU is good for the environment. This new study from Open Europe attempts to challenge this claim, arguing that real environmentalists should be very sceptical indeed of the EU?s record on this area.?

    ?The EU doesn?t need an Constitution to fight climate change – it simply needs the political will to develop policies that work.?

    Almost everyone acknowledges that the first phase of the system – running from 2005 to 2007 – has been a failure: more permits to pollute have been printed than there is pollution. The price of carbon has collapsed to almost zero, creating no incentive to reduce pollution.

  14. gobsmacked 14

    “Finally there is a politician who just doesn’t jump on the climate change bandwagon because its popular.”

    You aren’t referring to John Key are you? He’s been on the bandwagon since he saw Al Gore’s movie! And only because THAT was popular.

    Quiz time: what was John Key’s first question in Parliament to Helen Clark, after he became National leader? Guess …

  15. T-rex 15


    At the bottom of the page shown above is a series of questions posed by Key and addressed by Parker.

    I’m appalled by the recent swing in public opinion. Global warming is only a fraction of the issue, the ETS will change investment and development strategies for the better regardless of the accuracy of the climate change predictions. Regardless of whether we’re warming the globe, increased energy efficiency is still beneficial, oil based transport is a dead end tech, coal is a lousy power source, dairy is a horrendous polluter…
    To think that all it takes is a spike in petrol price and interest rates to make people abandon rational thought and lunge for the false security of short term cost reductions. The ETS certainly won’t kill our economy, but it might save it.
    At the end of the day, the ETS is an R&D incentive. Which is the only thing that’s going to get us out of the hole we’re digging at present.
    By moving to abandon it, we’re only proving ourselves to be the short sighted suckers corporate strategists have always been able to count on.

  16. Peter Nelson 16

    SP – climate change science has not been settled for 40 years. 40 years ago we were heading for an ice age was the ‘consensus’.
    Science is not settled at all. Just the UN IPCC and the idiots who are paid by this scare that say it is ssttled.

  17. In fact, National has opposed every concrete measure to reduce greenhouse emissions

    You missed a few – notably, you missed National’s opposition even to measures they have proposed themselves.

    In 1992 National decided they would use the RMA to control emissions. The plan was effective, and in 1994 saw the Taranaki Combined Cycle gas turbine forced to offset its emissions in order to gain resource consent. National suddenly decided that wasn’t a good idea, and introduced a new proposal: get business to sign Negotiated Greenhouse Agreements to reduce emissions, and threaten a carbon tax if they didn’t. Busines signed the agreements and continued to pollute; National obediently backed down on the carbon tax at the last minute. In 1999 (based on policy work done in 1995) they floated a plan for a comprehensive emissions trading scheme to be introduced in ~2002. It would cover all gases and all sectors (sound familiar?) with auctioned permits and international tradeability. They pulled the plug at the last minute.

    This is a party pathologically unable to deal with climate change. In that context, their backflip over the weekend isn’t exactly surprising.

    Higherstandard: And would you say the EU ETS has been a blinding success SP ?

    The EU ETS had two major flaws. Firstly, countries overallocated – they gave out too many oermits in the name of “protecting competitiveness”, which reduced the effectiveness of the scheme. That has been fixed by central allocation. The second problem was that they grandfathered, which saw the scheme deliver large windfall profits to polluters. That has been fixed now by requiring all permits to be auctioned.

    Labour’s ETS would have avoided most of these mistakes. Permits were only grandfathered where prices could not be passed on – so our petrol and electricity companies would be laughing all the way to the bank. And there’s no internal bidding war for permits. Unfortunately, national’s consistent line of criticism has been to demand greater allocation and more grandparenting. It is they who want to repeat the EU’s errors, not Labour.

    Lew: The question here is whether an imperfect scheme soon is better than a perfect scheme at some unspecified point in the future.

    Having looked at this question in some detail, the answer is that it is better to have an imperfect policy which reduces emissions than a nonexistent perfect policy which doesn’t. Unfortunately, NZ policymakers have disagreed, and so we have repeatedly delayed policy and not had anything as backup while waiting for “the bugs to be ironed out”. The perfect has been the enemy of the good.

  18. Lew 18

    Peter Nelson: I agree – science is not settled. In science nothing is final – there are just things which haven’t been proven yet. That said, I hear this statement that only the IPCC believes in climate change quite often, in apparent denial of the fact that the IPCC represents the professional opinions of the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists. If you’re aware of another survey so broad-ranging which contradicts or even significantly challenges the IPCC’s findings, I’d love to see it.

    Saying `only the IPCC believes in climate change’ is like saying `only doctors believe smoking causes cancer’. Even if it were true, it’d be meaningless.


  19. I/S. Thanks for the background on the 1990s, really interesting to see they looked at much of the same stuff but lost their nerve each time.

    It’s also interesting that during the 1990s there was a seriousness, an acceptance of climate change as a real problem to be dealt with, even if they didn’t actually do anything. It’s only once they went into opposition that their head in the sand denier traits came forward.

    Peter nelson. Talk to a scientist – people working on climatology since the 1950s have known that pumping all these gases into the atmosphere would enhance the greenhouse effect, they were actually confused because they didn’t see it happening – in fact what was happening was a general warming but over industrialised countries (where most temperature recording devices are) there was a lot sulphur dioxide, which creates acid rain and smog but also blots out the sun lowering temperatures. Once sulphur dioxide was brought under control the underlying increase in temperatures due to greenhouse gases became more apparent. No serious scientist, in fact no serious person, denies the fact of climate change.

  20. roger nome 20


    40 years ago we were heading for an ice age was the ‘consensus’.

    That isn’t true. The ice age theory was never mainstream science.

    Science is not settled at all. Just the UN IPCC

    You’re forgetting all of the National science academies of the industrialised world. 99% of the sceptics aren’t climate scientists, but property developers and the like.

  21. r0b 21

    The science certainly is settled. The basic anti-climate change arguments are well known and well refuted:


    The effects are tangible and they are happening now. Arctic ice has retreated so much that new shipping lanes have opened up, and there are looming international debates over newly accessible mineral, oil and fishing rights:


    As well as Arctic (and Antarctic) ice melt, glaciers (one of the most sensitive indicators of global warming) are receding world wide – see dramatic images here:


    The overwhelming body of scientific evidence is now agreed by the overwhelming majority of scientists:


    On Feb. 2, 2007, the United Nations scientific panel studying climate change declared that the evidence of a warming trend is “unequivocal,’ and that human activity has “very likely’ been the driving force in that change over the last 50 years. The last report by the group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2001, had found that humanity had “likely’ played a role.

    The scientific argument is as close to over as science gets. That’s why governments all over the world (and many individual states in America) are taking action to combat climate change.

  22. Luke C 22

    The true face of National and Key is really starting to show up in the last few days. The anti MMP statements and the turnaround on Climate Change shows they are really are being controlled by the business elite. Hopefully the public will starty to realise this. This is why the election is far from over.

  23. Phil 23

    “No serious scientist, in fact no serious person, denies the fact of climate change”

    I recall that in the 1600’s no serious person believed that the earth orbited the sun. They all thought it was the other way around. Oh, they also thought the earth was flat. Then along came Copernicus and shook things up.

    No serious scientists in the late 1800’s thought there was anything left to discover – we had atoms, and there couldnt be anything smaller than that! Then along came our own Rutherford, split one open, and all this otehr crap came flying out…

    As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing in science, or economics, or climateology, as “certain”. Only varying degree’s of “maybe”. To do otherwise makes you a cheap salesmen.

  24. Lew 24

    Phil: Of course, but lacking 20/20 hindsight, would you have sided with Copernicus before he’d proven it? Or Rutherford before he’d split one?


  25. Phil.

    “I recall that in the 1600’s no serious person believed that the earth orbited the sun. They all thought it was the other way around. Oh, they also thought the earth was flat. Then along came Copernicus and shook things up.”

    a – that’s stupid, it had been known since ancient times that the earth was a sphere orbiting the sun, it just didn’t fit with Christian mythology.

    b – that’s stupid, just because once a upon a time people believed something and it was wrong doesn’t mean that everything people believe now is wrong. You have to present evidence in the present case. You can’t do that, that’s why you’re resorting to pathetic comments about a flat earth.

  26. Phil 26

    I probably wouldn’t have, and neither would you.

    Of course, if we choose to learn from the lessons of the past, we won’t threaten to burn anyone at the stake just becasue their ‘non-believers’ or ‘deniers’.

    Actually, I’ve just had a disturbing thought; is it possible the persecution of opposers to climate change could become our generations McCarthy trials?

  27. AncientGeek 27

    Peter Nelson:

    40 years ago we were heading for an ice age was the ‘consensus’.

    Bullshit. What you are talking about was a couple of people in the northern hemisphere looking at their local temperature records from the late 60’s and early 70’s. The media picked it up as headlines.

    It had nothing to do with any science. It was an observation of a local aberration in northern europe and north eastern US. The numbers from this area of the world did not show similar effects.

    In the end they tracked it down to mainly being due to the particulate matter being tossed out from smokestacks. After the clean air legislation caused particle scrubbers to be installed in chimney stacks, the temperatures started tracking with the rest of the world again.

    So what you just described was an early local instance of human instigated climate change. Just like the pea-souper fogs in london earlier in that century.

    If you’re going to argue about stuff in one of my areas of knowledge – how about bringing yourself up to the point of knowing the urban myths.

  28. AncientGeek 28


    Actually, I’ve just had a disturbing thought; is it possible the persecution of opposers to climate change could become our generations McCarthy trials

    Personally I wish that they’d just learn enough science to be worth the effort of arguing with them.

    As far as I can tell, I’ve never seen a person trained in earth sciences or climatology disagree with the proposition of human induced climate change. They just argue about how far the effects will go.

    What I see are engineers, chemists. physicists, and various other disciplines talking about things they don’t appear to understand. Then a pile of untrained idiots grabbing it as justifications for their gut-feelings.

  29. darryl p 29

    What I find ironic is that the government are annoyed at the main government opposition for not supporting one of the governments key policies. I’ve read in this blog time and again how Helen is such a master of MMP, and yet she can’t get her own supply partners to push the ETS through. If anything Labours frustration should be aimed at them not National.

    If the Greens have misgivings about the changes that Labour have made to the ETS I think that’s fair enough, afterall they are the Green party and enviromental matters are what they have built their party on. If Labour want the Greens to play ball then they have to have a policy that the Greens are happy to sign off on – not change it without consulting them.

    If Labour try and push through a policy that their own partners are not happy with – in the hope that their main opposition will support them – then they are mad!

  30. Well, Labour wanted to build a consensus on the ETS, recognising it is a long-term policy with major economic imapcts. National had agreed to be part of it. Unfortunately, when push comes to shove National will always back way from doing anything about climate change.

    the weakening of the ETS that Labour made two weeks ago was really to try to shore up support from the centre parties (NZF and UF). It pissed the Greens off and rightly so but Labour has to try to make the numbers.

    I suspect that Labour can get both the Greens and NZF on board with some further policy deals and I think UF would have ended up opposing the scheme anyway because they’re hollow, just like National.

    it would also be very disappointing if the Maori party opposes the ETS.

  31. darryl p 31

    Fundamentally I still think all parties would want to support some sort of scheme that reduced the impact that we have on the environment.

    However, what Labour propose is different to what the Greens propose which is different to what National propose which is probably different again to what ACT, the Maori Party and UF propose.

    I can’t see this being anything but a lenghty process, one which is also unavoidable, but most likely worth it in the end.

    My personal verdict is out on whether there is such a thing as global warming or not – but that doesn’t change the fact that we are still morally bound to not trash the planet.

  32. Ari 32

    Steve- The Greens would support it if it were merely flawed. (and that was their opinion of the stronger ETS before Labour starting trying to engage National on it) However, the state that Labour was trying to pass it in was actively harmful to the environmental economy.

    The issue is essentially that it needs someone to cross the left-right divide of our parliament to get this legislation through, as it can’t be done by just the centre parties, (labour/NZF/UF) it can’t be done by the left parties, (labour/greens/maori) and it can’t be done by the right parties. (national/act/UF)

    The problem is that the left coalition would likely want an ETS that pushes change through at a respectable, if not particularly fast speed. But the centre and the right actively want to subsidise polluters by leaving them out of the ETS and stalling other anti-emissions measures as long as possible. (with them merely varying on exactly how much stalling and subsidising they want)

    The issue is essentially that this has already been 6 years in the making, and the unwillingness for even weak action on climate change is astounding, especially given that only Act and National have any public climate deniers in their parties.

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