Playing backyard cricket with my brothers we used to say that cheats never prosper. In other words if you lie or break the rules, you’ll only end up hurting yourself. That is certainly the case with the United States pulling out of the Paris Agreement, and something that our own Government is also familiar with.
There has been a lot of outcry and condemnation since Donald Trump announced the United States is leaving the Paris Agreement. There is no doubt that this inevitable announcement was a blow to the global accord. However, thankfully this announcement seems to have redoubled efforts by the rest of the world. Ultimately, by walking away, the USA will be shooting themselves in the foot.
Climate change is not going away, no matter what Donald Trump may think. The science is increasingly certain, as are the implications; that we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by 2050. The USA may not want to act now, but as disasters mount they will have to.
As we pointed out in our Climate Action Policy, the longer we delay, the more expensive this will become. For example the World Bank estimates that delaying action until 2030 will increase the costs by 50%.
New Zealand has already experienced this with our own climate cheating. For many years the National Government took no action on climate change, instead preferring to live off cheap, fraudulent foreign credits to meet our obligations. The short-term gain has come back to bite us on the backside, pushing up the cost of meeting our reduction targets in the long term.
Any further delay in taking action means that we (and the United States) will miss out on opportunities. You’d be hard pressed to find people picking coal to be a long-term growth sector. By contrast clean technology is providing many new, fast growing industries.
Again, there are good examples of opportunities here in New Zealand. As we pointed out in our Climate Action policy, these include improving energy efficiency and planting erosion prone land.
New Zealand wastes a lot of money running inefficient machines, appliances and un-insulated homes. The Warm Up New Zealand grant scheme is one example where investment has shown positive returns. The same approach should be extended to other areas, saving us all money and cutting our emissions.
New Zealand has 1.1m hectares of erosion prone land, and it makes sense on many levels to plant this land in native trees. For starters the land currently has a very poor return, which could easily be replaced by carbon credits from growing trees. Meanwhile it would also be possible to farm manuka honey on the regenerating land. Finally, we need to take into account all the environmental benefits from reduced erosion (less silt in our rivers) and providing more habitat for our native species.
Acting on climate change isn’t a cost, it is an opportunity, and regardless of the United States stance, we need to take advantage of it.