Emissions Plan: Right Direction, But Where’s the Urgency?

Today the National Government announced a package to bolster the Emissions Trading Scheme that may achieve its conservative emissions targets. It’s great they have finally woken up and are acknowledging that climate change isn’t going away, that we will eventually have to do something to reduce emissions. But the key word here when one talks about National’s approach is the word eventually. All the changes the Government is talking about are good, but many are too weak and none will be implemented until 2020.

This change of heart from National shows that they finally accept they have to take action on climate change. After the election TOP would be happy to work with National to bring some much-needed backbone to climate change policy (along with water quality). Let’s get on with it, for the good of our economy and our environment.

Government Package 

National’s proposed changes look a lot like a watered down version of TOP’s Climate Action Plan:

 

So National are heading in the right direction, which is a good thing. It really shows that they are starting to wake up to the problem, and opens the possibility of collaborating with TOP on a blue green policy agenda. What they are lacking is urgency, and that is what TOP would bring. We aim to pressure the establishment parties so they get on with tackling our biggest issues (including climate change), because the sooner we take action the cheaper it will be and the better off we will all be.

Taking Action is Good for Business AND the Environment

The number one thing business says they want is certainty. The only certainty here is that we need to take action on climate change. We need to be fossil fuel free by 2050, that’s what our government undertook to do, simple as that. Now let’s get on with it.

What does that mean in practice? Let’s look at the carbon price as an example. Earlier this year a worldwide commission on carbon pricing suggested we would need a carbon price of between US$40-80 per tonne by 2020 and US$50-100 by 2030 to achieve our goal of keeping warming below 2 degrees. Even our own Business New Zealand’s Energy Council has looked at this issue and predicts we will need carbon prices of $60 per tonne in 2030 and $115 per tonne of carbon in 2050 to make real progress on reducing emissions. These guys are hardly greenies, they are economists and business people dealing with cold hard facts.

National need to wake up to the seriousness of this issue. By keeping the carbon price artificially low with a price cap, they are sending false signals to businesses about the future. That means that businesses will make investments, which could ultimately end up being bad ones when the carbon price rises. This will eventually cost our economy – big time.

We need to get a price signal in place that reflects the challenge that we face. This would encourage businesses to make investments in a low carbon economy now. Every moment we delay taking action becomes far more expensive, because in the meantime businesses will have made investments that they have to shut down.

Where are the Greens?

The real question is where are the Greens in all this? They not prepared to work with National, which means that by voting for them the environment is only represented in government half the time (or less). Even their policies won’t achieve the goals that they are setting to reduce emissions. Thanks to their mistrust of markets they are still arguing for a $25 per tonne carbon tax – way below what is going to be required to achieve any meaningful emissions targets. Are they really serious about our environment?