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Kiwis should be free-riders – NZIER

Written By: - Date published: 10:42 am, November 3rd, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment - Tags:

A nice attempt at wedge politics from rightwing economic think-tank NZIER today. They say we should be concentrating on water quality, air quality, and saving native species, rather than climate change – a transparent attempt to divide conservationists from environmentalists.

The entire substance of this ‘report‘ is a table on page 17 that doesn’t actually attempt to work out the costs and benefits of different environmental activities. That’s right, there’s no actual numbers. It’s just some generalisations and subjective rankings. This isn’t actually a cost/benefit analysis, they haven’t quantified the costs and the benefits. All this is really about is NZIER saying ‘we don’t want NZ to do anything about climate change because it means putting the costs of pollution on to business, so we’ll pretend that other things are higher and mutually exclusive priorities’.

But this isn’t a zero sum game. Better dairying would do a lot for both water quality and greenhouse emissions, for example. The greatest long-term threat to our endangered species is climate change. We can, should, and must tackle all these environmental problems at once. Often they have common solutions.

The NZIER report is simply not the robust piece of analysis it purports to be and can be dismissed as such.

The report fundamentally misconstrues, intentionally I suspect, the nature of climate change and the efforts to prevent it. We are in danger of pushing the world’s temperature beyond a tipping point where catastrophic climate change will occur, if that is allowed to happen the cost of any other environmental issue and the cost of emissions reductions will pale in comparison. We must not let that line be crossed or everything else will be for nought.

In terms of emissions reductions. NZIER brings up the old saw that we only produce 0.2% of world emissions, so whatever we do doesn’t matter. Well, every community, every city, most countries in the world can also claim to produce an individually trifling amount of emissions but it’s the combined effect that is the problem and it is our responsibility to do our part as much as it is the responsibility of everyone else to do theirs. Apart from being immoral, the free-rider behaviour that NZIER extorts just encourages the same from others until we all end up doing nothing.

I don’t know what kind of people NZIER thinks New Zealanders are but the New Zealanders I know have always been people with a sense of fairness who are ashamed not to do their part when hard work needs to be done. We have never sat on the sidelines during any other global crises that has faced us, and we are better than shirking our responsibilities on climate change.

15 comments on “Kiwis should be free-riders – NZIER ”

  1. the sprout 1

    more of that “Fast Follower” lameness.
    Wow! what a grand thing to aspire to, being a Fast Follower. makes me feel all proud inside.

  2. prism 2

    The NZ Institute of Economic Research has a big business bias doesn’t it? I heard Guy Salmond of Ecologic make comment and this guy’s comments and that organisation are worth monitoring. I have the impression that he fits the description of idealistic pragmatist which guides the thinker to the best practical action.
    For those who want environmental information but consider the Greens a bit dubiously try Ecologic amongst your background info group. Has anyone else been following this org?

  3. prism 3

    sprout – What do you mean by Fast Follower? Are you concerned we have a tendency to move fast to initiate new policies before others to prove how good we are so we get patted on the head and allowed to play with the big boys?

    • the sprout 3.1

      ‘Fast Follower’ is just a term that’s been trotted out out before on this topic to say, let’s not take the lead on anything, let’s see what others do first then do what they do. and let’s only do anything when it follows big business interests.

      i think the ‘fast’ part is there to reduce the lameness factor of what it actually is, which is really just ‘follower’.

  4. randal 4

    Who is the nzier and why does anybody listen to them?
    We have entered an age where nobody is allowed to question the credentials of anybody else and only the message when the crux of the matter is who are these people who want to deny the truth.
    It seems to me they are the same people who denied the emperor was nude and the same people who beleived that knut could turn the tide
    In the event they are just another interest group stringing the rest of us along so they can gather a client list from the “other side” and accumulate enough money to buy a hardly davidson or a pied a terre in the south of france.
    i.e. just another pack of venal monkeys.

  5. snoozer 5

    I’m sick of the right saying Kiwis shouldn’t do our part. What do they think we are, a nation of freeloaders?

    • Pascal's bookie 5.1


      Might start calling them ‘Overheads’, on account of how they project so well.

  6. Zaphod Beeblebrox 6

    No environment, no economy. There’s good reasons why Easter Island or haiti are not economic powerhouses.

  7. So Bored 7

    Pleased to see the comments above, our collective distrust of the establishment on issues of environment and economy. The track record indicates very strongly that groups who have material interests are incapable of changing behavoir except under coercion, changing their thinking is in my judgement not even worth attempting.

    Fortunately there is a possible alternative action, we do have examples of people acting against the flow, actually going and doing things to save species and environment. My local heros grow plants for riparian zones and clean up streams. If everybody who is concerned changes just a few materialist habits towards sustainability and spreads the word we can reach a critical mass and bring down the materialist system from within. Think global, act local.

  8. BLiP 8

    Given his allergy to bad news and associating his brand with the slightest aspect of fail, its not wonder then that John Key is too ashamed to show his face at Copenhagen. So much for his 100% Pure New Zealand master brand.

  9. Eoipso 9

    On page 6 of the NZIER Report, a definition of “Sustainable Development” is referenced to a UN Report “World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987”.
    I can’t believe they are talking about the same thing when you look at both reports conclusions.

    Conclusion of UN Report A/42/427. Our Common Future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development

    In its broadest sense, the strategy for sustainable development aims to promote harmony among human brings and between humanity and nature. In the specific context of the development and environment crises of the 1980s, which current national and international political and economic institutions have not and perhaps cannot overcome, the pursuit of sustainable development requires:
    a political system that secures effective citizen participation in decision making.
    an economic system that is able to generate surpluses and technical knowledge on a self-reliant and sustained basis
    a social system that provides for solutions for the tensions arising from disharmonious development.
    a production system that respects the obligation to preserve the ecological base for development,
    a technological system that can search continuously for new solutions,
    an international system that fosters sustainable patterns of trade and finance, and
    an administrative system that is flexible and has the capacity for self-correction.

    These requirements are more in the nature of goals that should underlie national and international action on development. What matters is the sincerity with which these goals are pursued and the effectiveness with which departures from them are corrected.

    Summary of NZIER viewpoint: Working paper 2009/7: Sustainable development: Have we got our priorities right?

    The current global economic turmoil provides a reason to stop and take stock of the direction of sustainable development, but not for abandoning the idea. To ride out the turmoil, New Zealand needs to be able to make the most of all its resources, including those obtained from the natural environment. This means freeing up the use of resources from delays and inconsistencies that apply to current allocation mechanisms, but also giving due weight to the protection of environmental attributes against irreversible changes that impose costs on the future which, stripped back to basics, is what sustainable development is all about.

    • So Bored 9.1

      Well spotted, I cant quite get my head around the NZIER language, the concepts are very contradictory. basically it says the current economic crisis requires that they can lay their hands on any resources as fast as possible to rip shit and bust because todays crisis is the most important…..f***wits.

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 9.1.1

        I think what they are saying is that because lazy investors can’t make easy profits from property or share speculation anymore they need to find other ways of maintaining their wealth and influence.

        Free pillage to our above and below ground resources is whats left.

        Of course they could work hard, encourage scientific endeavour and education and new technology produce value added products in a way that doesn’t denigrate our natural capital, but that would be too hard.

  10. Quentin 10

    Well known conservative commentator Thomas Friedman contends that destroying our biodiversity to fuel unregulated economic growth is like burning the Mona Lisa to cook dinner…. The NZIER report and more.

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