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Time for a Just Transition?

Written By: - Date published: 4:28 pm, December 30th, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: Environment, Spying - Tags: , ,

Happy ValleyWith so much attention on climate change, and such a lack of concern, urgency and commitment to action from the current Tory government you would think it would be something labour would be working hard on, and be busy drafting detailed policy and vocally demanding action be taken. The Copenhagen climate summit was a cop out, divided between those that wanted an ambitious deal and emissions reductions and the Tim Groser’s of the world that wanted what was best for various vested interests such as coal corporations and agricultural giants like Fonterra. Canada echoed this position, by pushing for Tar Sands to be mined and burnt rather than pushing for emissions reduction and a fair deal. Tuvalu seemed to be pushed off a cliff.

Where does Labour stand when it comes to local climate issues in Aotearoa? Take mining and coal for example: on the one hand Labour is shocked and appalled by the suggestion of public conservation land being opened up to the friends of Gerry ‘Sexycoal’ Brownlee, yet they are vague when it comes to other matters like the proposed mine in the Waimangaroa Valley (Happy Valley), which is a pristine wilderness area with conservation values. It has been pointed out by those that champion the views of coal lobbyists like Don Elder that Chris Carter supported the Cypress Mine going ahead and signed off the destruction of Mount Augustus nearby.

So a Conservation minister supported mountaintop removal mining so coal could be sent to China, sounds rather similar to the position taken by the surprise Tory Conservation minister and former WTO trade negotiator, Tim Groser. While it was a surprise Tim Groser was given the Conservation minister role (both to himself and the NZ public), it is no surprise where he and Gerry Brownlee sit when it comes to issues like opening up public land to mining interests. Tim Groser is both Conservation minister and trade minister, and additionally has the role of climate negotiator and assistant climate minister.. He wants to open up conservation land to foreign mining interests to see more coal etc, and is conservation minister, a role which requires he protect public conservation land… Conflict of interest?

While Nick Smith the climate minister says he supports sending coal to China and India because if we don’t somebody else will, what does the possible next climate minister, Charles Chauvel say? When he was Conservation minister, Chris Carter acted like a lobbyist for SOE and state mining corporation, Solid Energy. Even when Solid Energy was caught using spies to try to get the upper hand against public opposition from environmentalists, Labour stood behind Solid Energy and their CEO, Don Elder who hired Thompson and Clark and ignored government directives from Trevor Mallard, the then SOE minister.

David Parker put Don Elder in his place and called his bluff at the annual power conference in Auckland and Chris Trotter wrote an article on Labour and the Save Happy Valley campaign against a mine getting the go ahead in the Waimangaroa Valley. All in all Labour seems to have an unclear position when it comes to climate change and coal, an unclear position on its commitment to emissions reductions, what an appropriate target should be and what value it places on conservation land.

Taking a stand against the Cypress Mine going ahead in the pristine wilderness of the Waimangaroa Valley on the West Coast would be a good start for labour, if it wants to be seen as taking conservation and climate issues seriously.

A new hydro scheme has just been granted approval down from the Stockton Mine, that will both provide renewable energy and clean up some of the polluted Ngakawau River and the Acid Mine Drainage that comes from the Stockton Mine. This small hydro project is the kind of fresh thinking that could get Aotearoa moving on climate change, and also provide a just transition to a low carbon economy.

Information abour the hydro development is available here: www.hydrodevelopments.co.nz

Information about the Waimangaroa Valley and photos are available here: www.savehappyvalley.org.nz


15 comments on “Time for a Just Transition?”

  1. Bill 1

    Labour stands where National stands, stands where Labour stand.

    Both serve business.

    They may differ only on matters that are reasonably insignificant from the perspective of business. ( Them’s the rules.)

    On all else they are the same with different spin and noise attached in order to create the illusion that meaningful degrees of divergence and difference exist. The reality is an indefatigable sameness.

    If you think that’s over calling it, then ask yourself what major changes have occurred in NZ during your lifetime? A bipartisan adoption of neo-liberalism? Business got what business wanted. You and I got the fallout.

    Is there anything of major significance on any non-business front that a NZ government has pursued/ implemented in your life time? Anything at all?

    There isn’t.

    And the reason there is nothing is that the question of the relationship between you and me and the real business of government has been settled and contained….ie the matter of us and our desires has been dealt with and contained within acceptable and non-threatening, to them, parameters.

    • Sorry Bill but Labour were far ahead of national in terms of commitment to policies to address climate change. Just look at what National did in its 100 days of action:

      1. Froze the ETS
      2. Destroyed the developing biofuels industry
      3. Reversed the ban on energy efficient lightbulbs
      4. Reversed the ban on thermal power stations.

      And since then they have kept it up. They have even forced Meridian to lose its carbon neutral status. I cannot see the logic in this. I suspect it was out of spite so that there would be no green NZ power companies.

      At least with Helen you had the aspirational promise of being carbon neutral. You will not get this under the current bunch.

      Labour did get along with business. But it did try to mould them when the national interest required this.

      • Bill 1.1.1

        The central point that both labour and national seek business orientated solutions first, foremost and last is I’d suggest a point inadvertently underscored by your comment.

        That one is slightly more moderate here or slightly less/more committed there, as you comment, is entirely beside the point.

        The ETS was/is a business orientated ‘solution’.

        Labour did not set any type of high bar there. Labour did as little as it might practically and politically get away with in the environment it was setting policy in… with nothing intended to upset business. National is doing as little as it might practically and politically get away with in the environment it is setting policy in…..with nothing intended to upset business. ( Not to say that neither party upsets business, but it’s by cock up rather than design)

        The power station ban should have stayed. But. Exported coal gets burned. So banning thermal stations isn’t an altogether honest commitment to tackling climate change.That aside, the bio-fuels and light bulbs are neither here nor there ( I can’t remember the exact figures, but it takes more energy to produce a litre of bio-fuel than the energy unleashed by its use and we could ban light bulbs altogether and we’d still have the same extent of climate change.)

        Anyway, for a wider perspective, rather than simply comparing Labour with National you might look to the ALBA Declaration on Copenhagen to see where democratic governments could and can go when they are not merely toddling along hand in glove ( or is it white cane and blind bitch?) with business and it’s interests.

  2. burt 2


    You start

    With so much attention on climate change, and such a lack of concern, urgency and commitment to action from the current Tory government…

    OK, I think, another ill informed “National bad” fruit loop having a rant.

    You then go on to detail Labour’s lack of concern and commitment with this;

    All in all Labour seems to have an unclear position when it comes to climate change and coal, an unclear position on its commitment to emissions reductions, what an appropriate target should be and what value it places on conservation land.

    Then you finish up with this;

    A new hydro scheme has just been granted approval down from the Stockton Mine…

    Fail, I wouldn’t put my name to a shonky piece of spin like that either.

  3. burt – how is saying a hydro scheme on the West Coast got approval spin?

    In public relations, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization or public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, “spin” often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics.

    Politicians are often accused by their opponents of claiming to be honest and seek the truth while using spin tactics to manipulate public opinion.

    Because of the frequent association between “spin” and press conferences (especially government press conferences), the room in which these take place is sometimes described as a spin room.

    A group of people who develop spin may be referred to as “spin doctors” who engage in “spin doctoring” for the person or group that hired them.

    • burt 3.1


      The approval of the hydro scheme is not BS spin, having that as an ending to a rant that started “such a lack of concern, urgency and commitment to action from the current Tory government”. was the call out I made. Do keep up.

  4. Are you saying National has a good environmental/action on climate change record?

  5. Whats has labour achieved when it comes to outcomes on addressing climate change? and what has national achieved when it comes to results?

    It seems NZ needs more renewable energy, needs to reduce transport emission and have a type of farming that is less intensive. The outcry about factory farming ‘cow cubicles’ has been huge, including even Fonterra saying it is a bad look.

    Is sending vast amounts of coal to China and India a wise move ? is Burn More Coal! really the message NZ wants to be sending to the developing world? Tim Groser supports coal being sent to China, yet says he wants it to reduce emissions…

    (random fact: In 2005, almost 6,000 miners lost their lives down Chinese coal mines.
    article on china and coal- http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2009-08/10/content_8548125.htm)

    Where Labour to convince NZ it had what it takes to tackle climate change what would it do?

  6. Definitely siding with Greenie on this one.

    If anything this blog post is a good sign when the standard points out labour’s short falls, rather than maintain the national=bad, labour=good, paradigm. I’m looking forward to the labour party drafting some decent policy on climate change(with their ETS being almost as useless as National’s) in their time as opposition.

    Hopefully the labour party will come to understand that what is needed is a party with ideas very different to the current government(Who knows if that happens they might be viewed as an alternative to National, rather than identical, which means they might even get some votes). National’s inaction on climate change will only get us more derisive articles in the Guardian damaging our international reputation.

    I’m glad this Guest post covered labour’s failings in the area of climate change, if more of this were to happen they might start forming some decent policy.

    • Bill 6.1

      I’m glad this Guest post covered labour’s failings in the area of climate change, if more of this were to happen they might start forming some decent policy.

      That’s a nice thought, but mere mention or talk of Labour’s failings or shortcomings on climate change, will not in itself, translate into more robust climate change policy for the reasons I mentioned here. ( link busted….comment at top of thread)

      Unfortunately governments and parties react only when pressure from below is applied to the extent that their risk analysis shows that they (the party or government) will suffer more by doing nothing than they will if they cede to the demands being made.

      I’m afraid that on their own, rational or intelligent argument counts for nought in a world of power grabs.

      If we want any government in NZ to instigate serious climate change policies, we need to organise and shake up their comfort zone.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        Well, their comfort zone is going to be shaken no matter what happens. The choice they have is being ready for it (ie, making the necessary plans for climate change) or having it totally destroy society. These are our choices as well – we either get off our fat arse and tell the politicians to do the right thing or we’re going to feel the pain.

        So far, both major parties are listening to business and not the people or the scientists. Unfortunately, a lot of the people aren’t listening to the scientists either.

        • Bill

          Don’t want to sound like I’m just banging on the same old point, but to simply ‘tell’ politicians what to do will achieve absolutely nothing. They have to be made to do what they are being told to do!

          The compulsion for them is a realisation that their position, if maintained is untenable. The problem we have in NZ is that all main parties are more or less on the same page with regards to major issues, therefore ballot box threats have no effect….they can fart about on peripheral issues to ‘mark’ their territory or distance from one another.

          Meanwhile, nothing changes.

          And I get your point about the climate blowing comfort zones this way and that anyway. But I’d far rather live in a world with growing seasons and what have you, than in a world of atmospheric chaos and a hopeless dose of self righteous ‘told you so’ ness.

          Which means that the anti must be upped on all political parties. And the actions of you and me are what is going to up the anti. Or not. Our choice to follow conviction and get right fucking angry and be uncontainable and uncompromising with our demands….. or sit down, shut up and ride on down all quiet like.

  7. The Marsden B coal power station was stopped by action and campaigning.

    If Labour and National want to continue as is, then answers will come from elsewhere – it will take direct action to change things. Nick Smith has said he supports coal mining, despite pre election saying it is the dirtiest fossil fuel, and a key source of emissions. Labour have said they do not support new coal fired power stations being build in NZ, yet they support NZ coal being exported to Australia and China etc for it to be burnt there.

    The next climate conference is in Mexico, following the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference in Denmark. If you have had enough of Tim Groser and John Keys empty rhetoric and excuses, get involved with actions and projects that will make things happen.

    This year the first Camp for Climate Action Aotearoa was held in Wellington. http://www.climatecamp.org.nz here are some images from the camp

    NZ stock exchange disrupted following failure at Copenhagen
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0912/S00268.htm – press release

    Climate Activists Blockade NZ Stock Exchange

    Climate Change Demonstration Outside MFAT – images:

    Climate Camp Aotearoa video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtKtvH2vOyo&feature=player_embedded

  8. more about climate camps:

    There have been at least 19 Climate Camps being held across the world in 2009; each situated at a different target; each making the link between local struggles for environmental justice with the global imperative of climate change.

    This year Climate Camps have been popping up at coal mines, coal fired power stations, an airport in France, a nuclear reactor in Lapland, the European Carbon Exchange in London and more.

    NZ’s Climate Camp hosted workshops on everything from sustainable energy use and direct action, to community gardening and internet hacking. The final day culminated in a Day of Action, where people take real action against the root causes of climate change.

    Climate Camp Aotearoa

    Sustainable Living Tips: the camp is an example of a sustainable temporary eco village using a horizontal organising structure. Yes – that means you make all the decisions at climate camp.

    Education: heaps of free workshops

    Direct Action: focusing on False Solutions to Climate Change

    Movement Building: the beginings of a peoples Climate Justice Movement in Aotearoa

  9. Press release from Straterra, Coal and fossil fuel lobby,
    Straterra… ‘aims to provide a united voice for companies working in the oil, gas, aggregates, minerals, metals and coal industries.’ (different to Greenhouse Policy Coalition, Major Energy Users Group and other similar lobbies).

    Time for reason, not rhetoric

    Tuesday, 15 December 2009, 12:10 pm
    Press Release: Straterra

    Media Release for immediate release

    15 December 2009

    Time for reason, not rhetoric

    The Copenhagen climate change summit should not be used for scoring cheap political points, as the Green Party has attempted to do this week, says Straterra Chief Executive Richard Michael.

    “This is not the time for emotional rhetoric,’ he said, responding to a media release issued by the Green Party that criticised a proposed new Solid Energy lignite processing plant in Southland and the Port of Lyttleton plans to double its coal stockyard to meet rising export demands. The release was headlined “Government commits to coal rather than Copenhagen’.

    Results powered by search.scoop.co.nz More Related Stories >>>

    “Yes, we need to innovate in terms of our natural resources use, and the sector is committed to doing so. But without a sound economic base that provides a platform for growth New Zealand cannot achieve its potential domestically and globally,’ said Mr Michael.

    Otago and Southland have up to 15 billion tonnes of lignite reserves. Even at its lowest value end-use, as a direct fuel for primary processing in the dairy, meat and other sectors, the total value of this resource at today’s prices is up to $500 billion. Converting lignite to higher value products such as transport fuels, fertilizers or other chemicals could increase the end value of this resource tenfold. At the same time it could insulate New Zealand’s economy from rising long-term global prices for all these products and create the equivalent of a new export industry worth up to $5 billion per year or more.

    “We need to balance environmental needs and economic growth and we believe the Government is striving to do just that,’ said Mr Michael.

    With world demand for steel exploding major producers such as India and China had a vociferous appetite for coal needed for production.

    “The world needs steel, and steel production needs coal. We have the ability to unlock the potential beneath our land while achieving maximum benefits for the economy with a minimum environmental footprint.’

    About Straterra

    Straterra, which was launched in September 2008, aims to provide a united voice for companies working in the oil, gas, aggregates, minerals, metals and coal industries. The sector has annual revenues exceeding four billion dollars and exports of around two billion dollars. Independent studies demonstrate the potential to double these revenues and provide much needed employment in the New Zealand economy.

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