Rod Oram on Clark and carbon neutrality

An excellent analysis by Rod Oram in the SST on how carbon neutrality might make or break Helen Clark.

The steps announced so far, such as requiring bio-fuels to account for 3.4% of the energy content of petrol and diesel by 2012, are incredibly modest. Meaningful progress will require making some very tough, fundamental decisions such as pricing the use of carbon across the economy, capping emissions and enabling a large-scale carbon trading market to develop.

This is key, I, for one, am not going to let Clark get away with claiming progress towards carbon neutrality without confronting those tough decisions. NZers deserve and need to know that this goal will require massive costs on NZ businesses and NZers, not just some PR gimmicks.

I’ll give the Greens credit. They are quite willing to front up and say yes we will have massive congestion on the roads in order to reduce car use. Yes we will reduce our national income and growth in order to reduce carbon use. Yes we will reduce exports and imports to reduce carbon costs of freight etc.

Labour I suspect is trying to have it both ways.

For my part I am not convinced that reducing carbon emissions is going to be as effective as mitigating the effects of climate change. I want an honest analysis of the costs of NZ becoming carbon neutral, so we can have a sensible debate.

Moreover, the prime minister is unwise to invoke the spirit of the nation’s anti-nuclear stand in suggesting carbon neutrality could be an equally powerful shaper of national identity. While it was brave to go anti-nuclear, particularly in the face of US hostility, it was relatively easy. It was a passive, one-off act. All we had to do was deny ourselves the dubious benefits of nuclear power and weapons.

In contrast, carbon neutrality will require decades of multiple, often challenging, actions. Many will require us to give up something, at least in the short term.

Again an excellent point. The nuclear free decision was a one-off which didn’t affect every day NZers. But Clark’s vision of carbon neutrality will involve tremendous pain.

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