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Rod Oram: Burn after reading

Written By: - Date published: 7:36 pm, September 7th, 2009 - 22 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

As usual Rod Oram presents an insightful argument:

New Zealand’s climate change credibility is hanging by a thread. If the government indulges in bad politics on the Emissions Trading Scheme, the thread would snap. We would suffer instant, serious and long-term damage to our economy, environment and reputation.

…Would National be so reckless? Logically it wouldn’t. It seems inconceivable it could stomach the idea of turning up to the international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December without an ETS and only the support of Act, a tiny bunch of climate deniers. National and New Zealand would be a laughing stock.

But almost anything is possible because National has dissembled, prevaricated and otherwise failed to reveal its true beliefs on climate change in opposition and so far in government. Thus the ETS has become the litmus test of National’s political skills, its commitment to the environment and its understanding of where New Zealand’s future lies in a low-carbon world.

I can’t wait to see the outcome.

22 comments on “Rod Oram: Burn after reading”

  1. I am not sure that National has “dissembled, prevaricated and otherwise failed to reveal its true beliefs on climate change”. It seems to me that National is doing everything it can to frustrate the development of any rational response to the threat of climate change and has been quite open about this. For instance:

    1. They signed a coalition agreement with Act which resulted in the setting up of the Select Committee that had to “review the science” as if there was a chance the science was wrong.
    2. They wanted “balance” between economic development and environmental sustainability as if this was possible.
    3. They removed the ban on new thermal power stations. Why use wind, tidal and geothermal when coal will do?
    4. They destroyed the developing biofuels industry.
    5. They reversed the ban on inefficient light bulbs in the name of “freedom” and “choice”.
    6. They have sent out many negative messages about the ETS and have caused major uncertainty in the developing market.

    And this was just within the first 100 days!

    Guess who said this?

    “How big is this risk? Many years of scientific work, summarised by the National academies of Science of all the main countries, including the United States, and by the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, confirms the risk is serious, although uncertainty remains about the rate and timing of global climate change and its regional effects. These uncertainties are not an excuse for doing nothing.’

    You will never guess. The source is National’s Bluegreen document, page 4.

    • logie97 1.1

      Unfortunately we have a PM who does not appear to have a firm grasp on the language he speaks so what other leaders will make of him, god only knows. Will they be able to be sure that his words mean what he says? I am sure that this morning on Breakfast, Henry asked him a question to which he replied, “… I am not overtly worried or concerned…” Does that mean secretly he is?

    • Ari 1.2

      2. They wanted “balance’ between economic development and environmental sustainability as if this was possible.

      Misusing words like this is pretty much the definition of “prevaricate”.

      Their policy is pretty clear on the fact that they don’t really care about the environment, the issue is that they want to pass a gutted ETS and pass it off as having “balanced” their priorities sufficiently.

  2. Pascal's bookie 2

    At a high level, the committee’s report was encouraging. It showed very broad support for five key principles: that the science of climate change is valid; that urgent action is needed globally to tackle climate change; that New Zealand should play its part in doing so; that all sectors and all gases should be included in our response; that we must work on mitigation (by reducing emissions) and adaptation (by adjusting our economy and built-environment to cope with changes in our physical environment).

    In light of that; this

    The trouble is, National might instead engage in bad politics. In its determination to ram through its agenda, it might threaten Labour that it would seek support from Act to suspend the ETS altogether.

    becomes interesting as all hell.

    Labour should offer a deal based on it’s own, fairly timid, ETS. National is leading the government, it’s their responsibility to sort this. If Labour thinks National’s ETS is not effective enough, they shouldn’t support it. If National wants to acknowledge the problem of AGW but not do anywhere enough about it that’s National’s business and Labour shouldn’t enable them.

    National’s choice is a tough one. They’ve acknowledged the problem, but for ideological reasons, (and reasons based around their years of strategic denialism), are hesitant to do what needs to be done.

    Labour should therefore, offer them the opportunity to do right, rather than enable them to do bullshit. If they want to do bullshit, they should do it with ACT.

    • Ari 2.1

      I think you mean that Labour should offer a more aggressive deal based off its timid ETS, given that National is likely to want to delay implementation. 😉

  3. Gooner 3

    Your headline is wrong. It should be “Rod Oram: Burn before reading”.

  4. RedLogix 4

    If they want to do bullshit, they should do it with ACT.

    Jeanette Fitzsimmons is right as usual, Labour really don’t have to do anything. The default position is the existing ETS legislation passed into law last year.

    Ultimately cross party support is of course a desirable thing.. but if we are going to be politically committed to a multi-party accord on this, the result had better be worth having.

    National have dug this hole for themselves, let them find a way out.

  5. JohnDee 5

    As Janet Fitzsimons points out we already have an ETS, one that National wants to change.
    So why should Labour play ball with National. John Key did all that he could in opposition to scuttle it.
    Labour should give no ground at all and let JK stew in his own slime.

  6. ben 6

    Lots of things I don’t get

    a) why do you pass legislation before Copenhagen negotiations commence? That weakens our position

    b) how can it possibly be good for the economy or the NZ environment for NZ to pass emissions trading? At the margin, NZ makes no difference. And raising the cost of energy, which is essential for the ETS to work, cannot help the economy. There is no free lunch here. Framing the debate as something other than a trade off between options is simply false.

    c) why are climate deniers persistently lumped in with policy skeptics? This is an unwillingness to engage by Oram and many or most warmists – for good reason, there is much to debate about the climate science and climate policy in particular. One can perfectly happily accept the science, one can accept the danger of higher greenhouse gases, and can still without any contradiction reject the case for government action. You only have to believe that the costs of handing massive control over to politicians outweighs the expected benefits. I am scared of even bigger government, and the much deeper constraints on personal freedom that implies. Much, much more scared of that than a mild century-long warming that we can do little about anyway.

    d) why is the threat of retaliatory tariffs even relevant? There are two free options here: 1) if the prediction of tariffs for non-compliance turns out to be true then weigh the costs and benefits and legislate an ETS then, and only then. 2) when we legislate we’ll have the tremendous benefit of other nations’ experience to guide us. I confidently predict ETS’s will not make any difference to climate – politicians are too captured by energy interests. Knowing whether this is true or not before writing our own legislation is valuable. A carbon tax is probably a better alternative. Until the threat of tariffs materialises, it makes no sense to respond to a threat that may or may not be there when it is not a one shot deal.

    If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool believer then none of this matters, of course. This is aimed at the thinking believer (or skeptic).

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 6.1

      Depends upon whether you want to be part of the international community. A looming problem has been identified and some solutions, you could argue whther they are the best ones or not, have been agreed upon.

      You can’t have it both ways. You can’t ask to be part of international trading agreements but at the same time opt out of agreed initiatives just because you can’t see the immediate economic benefits.

      Zimbabwe, North Korea and increasingly Fiji are taking the opt out route- do you feel we should join them?

    • Turn off the TV 6.2

      “mild century-long warming”

      That doesn’t even begin to summarise the threat we face. Beyond two degrees of warming any number of feedback loops could kick in, leading to uncontrollable warming up to no-one-knows-where. That’s not a risk humanity can take.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.3

      …than a mild century-long warming that we can do little about anyway.

      The warming won’t be for a century – it will be for millennia and it won’t be mild.

    • Con 6.4

      why do you pass legislation before Copenhagen negotiations commence? That weakens our position

      It only weakens our negotiating position if we are determined to do as little as possible. If by contrast we went to Copenhagen determined that the world should be doing an awful lot to avert the looming danger of climate change, then legislating first actually strengthens our position.

      And look, if the Copenhagen negotiations are a failure, and agreed targets were less than what our legislation committed us to, then we could always then relegislate to reduce our commitments to match what was agreed in Copenhagen.

      • mickysavage 6.4.1

        Good comment.

        One of the differences between a leftie and a wingnut is that we ask what is required of us and what can we do to help. Wingnuts ask how little can we get away with.

  7. ben 7

    Opting out, or delaying, implementation of climate policy does not mean opting out of the international community. There are many issues between nations besides climate policy.

    …immediate economic benefits.

    I’ve not seen to much that’s convincing on the intermediate or long term benefit either. All the benefits of NZ’s efforts go to other people, and the effect on climate will be indistinguishable from zero. The threat of tariffs is not a reason to make any decisions now. The argument that raising taxes on energy is good for the economy is plainly false. There is a cost to climate policy, make no mistake.

    The best argument I’ve seen is around clean and green reputation – but it is still not a very good argument because the reputation effects of climate policy are so unclear. If NZ’s reputation for clean and green relies more on untouched scenery than on emissions policy – which I strongly suspect it will – then there are no reputation effects. But let’s say it does matter to NZ’s reputation, then the lack of a climate policy can be thought of as a tax on tourism. We’ll get fewer foreigners visiting as a result. Not good. The question then is what you’d rather raise taxes on: tourism, or energy.

    • Ari 7.1

      You don’t count not being conquered for being one of the few remaining fertile pieces of land after a dramatic global warming as a benefit?

      IIRC, New Zealand, Russia, and Canada will be some of the most fertile land remaining if it’s as bad as we predict and we don’t make a sufficient go at reducing emissions.

      Climate destabilisation has very real security threats, and we’re one of the countries most vulnerable to them, as there’s no way we could afford to spend what we’d need to in order to fight off, say, China.

  8. ben 8

    Tried editing but couldn’t.

    The problem for NK, Fiji and Zim is that they have governments that are unaccountable and out of control. That is the direction (though not necessarily the end point) that climate policy takes us and why I am so concerned about it. I am not convinced climate policy can affect climate enough to justify the risk of our governments using climate policy to take everything.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 8.1

      Actually we are already starting to distinguish ourselves. We are the only country in the OECD that does not have vehicle emission standards (Australia is introducing them) and I am pretty sure no other OECD country has recently gutted their biofuel industry or legislated to allow more fossil fuel electiricity generation.
      If we turn up at Copenhagen with no emission standards we don’t really have many bargaining chips for the negotiations that will follow.

  9. Macro 9

    “The problem for NK, Fiji and Zim is that they have governments that are unaccountable and out of control.”
    ditto NZ

  10. youpeoplearesoboring 10

    Oram pontificates thus “New Zealand’s climate change credibility is hanging by a thread. If the government indulges in bad politics on the Emissions Trading Scheme, the thread would snap. We would suffer instant, serious and long-term damage to our economy, environment and reputation.”

    What the f*ck is Oram on about, sounds like a bunch of loaded comments, tenuous assumptions and downright bullsh*t. Nothing new there then huh.

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