National is under extraordinary pressure on its ETS. From farmers, to ACT (the tail once again trying to wag the dog), to the ever predictable business lobby (with one honourable exception), to the power industry, to the “grassroots”, attacks are coming from all sides.
National is, so far, sticking to its ETS guns, because it knows it has to. Trade with an increasingly green-conscious Europe is in the balance. To do nothing is to risk a huge hit to the economy. As a Herald editorial put it:
The Government is right to carry on with its relatively timid emissions trading scheme.
Under that international effort to counter climate change, New Zealand agreed to pay if it did not adequately cut greenhouse gas emissions. As Finance Minister Bill English explained this week, either the taxpayer pays all of that bill or it is shared with emitters and consumers. One way or the other, we have to pay. This is not a case of simply ignoring the Kyoto commitments and they go away.
Concerns remain over global warming and the potential for long-term, catastrophic effects on the environment, peoples, finances and of course trade. Showing backbone now in holding to small, progressive steps to share the burden is vital.
But the going is getting tough. At time of writing the top headlines on Newsroom are:
Rural Party Murmurings – Relations between National and Federated Farmers have taken a turn for the worse after the farming group’s leader reacted to a scathing attack on its ETS campaign by suggesting a new political party for farmers is over due.
ETS ‘Hysteria’ – The National MP who shot to fame in 2003 driving a tractor up Parliament’s steps to protest Labour’s so-called fart tax has accused Federated Farmers of hysteria in supporting ACT’s campaign against the emissions trading scheme.
It is clear that this issue has the potential to cost National dearly, and that they are starting to panic about it. While I can commend them for sticking to their guns (better a gutted ETS than none at all), I don’t have any sympathy over the backlash they are facing. They bought it on themselves. They bought it on themselves with their irresponsible fear-mongering and grandstanding while in opposition, from the immensely cynical “fart-tax” campaign to the outright lies on sensible energy saving measures.
This is part of an emerging pattern for National. In Government it has to deal with its own hysterical opposition chickens coming home to roost. It’s the ETS. It’s the race relations issues made harder by the Iwi/Kiwi rednecks that they courted. It’s the still growing “nanny state” backlash. It’s the public fear and anger over high crime statistics. It’s the confused and angry lobby that voted “No” in the smacking referendum. All of these, like the leaky homes crisis, are problems in substantial part of National’s own making. Call it karma, call it reaping what you sow, call it poetic justice. Call it whatever you like, it couldn’t be happening to a more richly deserving pack of politicians.