At the Labour campaign launch, the party’s leader Jacinda Ardern used climate change as a rallying cry, claiming that it was her “generation’s nuclear-free moment”. The trouble is that going fossil fuel free is going to be a lot more difficult task than going nuclear free.
Despite the enormity of the challenge ahead, there was no new policy in the speech. In fact, as of today Labour has not announced any policy at all for climate change this election.
We’re more than happy to help out. Transitioning to a low carbon economy won’t be easy, but there are five obvious places to start based on TOP’s Climate Action. As we have said before, Labour are welcome to adopt them.
1/ Get a Plan
Generation Zero is campaigning for a Zero Carbon Act, an idea that was backed by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in a recent report. The idea of this is to establish an independent Climate Change Committee (as per the United Kingdom) to set targets and make recommendations on how best to reach them. The idea is to take the politics out of reducing emissions.
Labour has made positive murmurings about adopting this approach were they to get into power, which would be a great step. The trouble is that it will take a while to get the legislation passed, then to set up the Committee. The Government announced Predator Free 2050 a year ago, and the Chief Executive has just started working. Then of course it will take time to put a plan together, before any action actually begins.
So it is a great idea, but all that could take a term of parliament. What can we do in the meantime?
2/ Increase the Carbon Price
We need to send a long-term signal to businesses that the price of carbon is going to rise. If Labour were to remove the price cap, signal that they will keep the Emissions Trading Scheme closed to international trade and cap the auctioning of credits at the 2030 target, the price of carbon would start rising. If necessary the government could purchase international credits on the country’s behalf. They would first need to make sure that we didn’t have a repeat of scandals of the past where our Government allowed New Zealand companies to purchase carbon units they knew were of questionable integrity.
3/ Sort our Electricity Industry
Our electricity supply is already mostly renewable, but the last bit will be the most difficult to achieve. A higher carbon price will help, but the Electricity Authority needs to have reducing emissions as part of their ambit. At the moment they are only focused on price and security of supply. An important part of being 100% renewable will be making sure that electricity prices reflect the true cost of the power used. At the moment our entire grid is built to supply peak demand, which tends to be 6pm in the middle of winter. Businesses and consumers need an incentive to reduce demand at that crucial time.
4/ Energy Efficiency
A higher carbon price means that the Emissions Trading Scheme can start to generate some money. The question is where should that money go? Thankfully, we know the answer to that question without having to wait for a Climate Commission to set up.
Insulating homes, ensuring appliances in homes and machines in businesses are energy efficient are all things that would reduce emissions and save people money at the same time. In the case of warm dry homes there are health benefits too! Making sure that people live in warm, dry homes is an urgent and immediate priority, one that Labour could seize immediately. A higher carbon price could even help pay for it.
5/ Replanting Erosion Prone Land
New Zealand has 1.1m hectares of erosion-prone land. This should be converted into native forest as a matter of urgency. The potential benefits are huge; it would soak up carbon, stop soil slipping into our rivers, provide valuable habitat for our native species, and provide manuka honey and oil while it is regenerating. In short, it is a total no brainer.