Fran O’Sullivan calls on Michael Cullen to intervene to make sure the suite of climate change measures being worked on does not seriously damage the economy:
Finance Minister Michael Cullen now has all the ammunition he needs to force an urgent rethink on New Zealand’s controversial suite of climate change policies before the economy suffers serious damage.
Cullen doesn’t say so in public. But it’s well known he has growing concerns over the zealous approach his Cabinet colleague, David Parker, continues to take to climate change in the face of obvious policy defects.
New Zealand is already heading towards economic recession. Increasing power and fuel prices further to curb the country’s growing greenhouse gas emissions issue – while farmers make the problem bigger by continuing to expand agriculture emissions – is sheer madness.
Households, already suffering from rising mortgage costs, fuel and food bills, will not vote for a government planning to increase their financial pain next year by introducing a scheme which will impact on their budgets, while farmers escape their share of the cost burden until 2013.
I am not just saying this to make trouble, but I do speak to quite a few people working in the industries trying to get changes and almost universally they are full of praise for Cullen’s understanding of the issues and problems, and equally full of disdain for David Parker who is described in terms best not repeated.
There is also looming trouble with power shortages:
Adding to the political angst will be the mounting problems caused by the lack of rainfall this summer.
The heat can only intensify if ordinary householders are slapped with escalating power bills this winter – or electricity cuts – as power suppliers ration dwindling electricity supplies.
Yesterday’s announcement that the major NZ-based manufacturer Rio Tinto, which owns the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter, is cutting back production in the face of potential brownouts – wood pulp producer Pan Pac may follow – has brought home the absurdity of Parker’s other key decision to enforce a 10-year moratorium on new base load thermal generation.
There is a now a risk that major local businesses, which are not location-dependent, will shift production offshore unless the Government puts security of future power supply back at the top of its priority list. All this suggests that the Government needs to get to grips with cold reality.
New Zealand does need to address climate change issues. But not in a lopsided fashion where ordinary folk – and smaller businesses – feel the brunt first.
The Government has made it to hard to construct new power generation, that it will not be the rain alone to blame if ther are shortages.