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No Right Turn: Climate Change – the need for a green recovery

Written By: - Date published: 7:05 am, April 15th, 2020 - 7 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, economy - Tags:

No Right Turn wrote yesterday:

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This morning, Treasury released some truly terrifying scenarios for the economic impact of the pandemic – a major recession and 13.5% unemployment in the best case. The government is going to try and counteract that and get people back into work by funding infrastructure – essentially, throwing money at the problem, which is good. But as The Spinoff noted, “by definition, today’s shovel ready project is yesterday’s idea”. There’s a danger that infrastructure will be old, dirty, and lock in carbon emissions rather than reducing them. And that danger has been highlighted by the Climate Change Commission, which has written to the government urging that it apply a climate change lens and not fund further pollution:

The Climate Change Commission – the expert panel tasked with getting New Zealand carbon neutral – has written to the government asking it to apply a “climate change lens” to the post-Covid-19 spend-up.

In a letter to Climate Change Minister James Shaw, the commission warned that locking New Zealand into a high-emissions future “will only compound today’s crisis with a future one”.

“An economic stimulus package can either speed up or stall our progress on climate change,” said the letter.

The commission is worried about boosting emissions, but also concerned that the wrong investments will make people and costly infrastructure more exposed to damage from climate change.

If this had happened a year later, the government would effectively be obligated to do this anyway (or rather, would see its rebuild decisions delayed by judicial review, making it simply easier to be sensible). But because the Commission hasn’t completed its initial budgets and reduction plans yet, the requirements are very weak: the government really only has to consider the 2050 net-zero target. Though given that infrastructure tends to be long-lasting (the Huntly power station has been with us for 40 years already), that should provide some leverage.

The Commission is also concerned that the pandemic could be used as an excuse to stall reform of the ETS and remove pollution subsidies. Farmers, National, and NZ First are already being vocal about this, but it would mean basicly surrendering any pretence that we ever intend to reduce emissions. And as with the lockdown, early action matters hugely. The quicker we get a proper price signal into the economy, the better (and easier) or emissions-reduction pathway. Hopefully, our politicians will accept that, rather than continuing to fuck up the future.

7 comments on “No Right Turn: Climate Change – the need for a green recovery ”

  1. Peter chch 1

    Amazingly no one has yet commented on this excellent post, so let me be the first.

    100% agree with James. This is a great opportunity for a mental and national reset.

    Global tourism is, at best, dead for for the next few years. Maybe it will never recover in our life time (would you seriously even consider sitting shoulder to shoulder with a few hundred people in a plane for a few hours in the next few years?).

    And the outsourcing of most of our manufacturing to China or elsewhere will surely be significantly reduced in future, with a return to a far greater degree of national self reliance.

    These alone will be very positive starters towards a 'green recovery'.

    • (would you seriously even consider sitting shoulder to shoulder with a few hundred people in a plane for a few hours in the next few years?).

      Yes I would if I thought the risk low enough, because that may be the only way I get to see children and grandchildren.

      I had planned on a trip next month including paying for air fares, that's obviously not on now, but travel credits and a wish to see family may get me on a plane again when it looks safe enough.

  2. KJT 2

    I suspect the pressure to go back to "business as usual" and any progressive or sustainable initiatives will be buried behind a chorus of "don't delay the (economic) recovery”.

    Already from Federated farmers, a propaganda campaign to roll back the freshwater reforms, apart from anything else.

    The only changes I think will happen are welfare reform, if a large number of people remain out of work. They will demand more. Finding out how truly miserly the welfare payments, and how much of their assets they have to sell to get them.

    And much more Government support for infrastructure and business. But not for anything new.

    • Peter chch 2.1

      But, despite what FF or whoever wants, it simply cannot be 'business as usual'. The reality will dictate that the old order is at least in part, over.

      As I stated in my points above, global tourism is dead for the foreseeable future. Global outsourcing to China is likely to be way reduced.

      At I sincerely hope, the selling out of our country by former politicians, will not be tolerated to the same extent. Look to Australia to see how this is already happening.

  3. pat 3

    The rush to return to BAU is well underway (and was always to be expected) from the usual suspects however there is a new reality that means it will not be possible so the opportunity for the political parties to promote something better has never been greater…what will be key is which way Labour decide to tack….on past form that dosnt inspire huge confidence.

    • pat 3.1

      and then again perhaps im doing them a disservice….

      "Back to Robertson – he said that while taking account of the “massive disruption to some sectors”, his longer-term plan is to also “address some of the long-standing challenges we face”.

      He specifically mentioned climate change, inequality, New Zealand’s low productivity, and trade diversification.

      Robertson reiterated the sentiment of a comment Ardern made on Tuesday, saying, “we must also not allow inequality to take hold in our recovery. In fact we need to take this opportunity to improve the prospects of all New Zealanders and tackle those long-standing divisions.”

      https://www.interest.co.nz/news/104552/grant-robertson-says-we-must-also-not-allow-inequality-take-hold-our-recovery-he

  4. Mark 4

    I don’t think that air traffic will get back up to 2019 levels ever again.

    Climate change/ global warming is the least of our worries now.

    most airlines are already broke – and by the time a treatment and/or a vaccine is found the cost of flying will be like it was back in the 1950’s. Only the very wealthy will be able to afford to fly.

    The positive side effect is that the cobalt shortage for lithium battery production is solved – thousands of jet turbines full of cobalt alloys to recycle will be one of many new industries.

    The Virus puts humanity in its place in a brutal way as it shows us how weak and helpless we really are.

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