ETS in danger

The Government’s Emissions Trading Scheme may be heading the same way as their legislation – with growing realisation the cures may be much worse than the disease.

Colin Espiner blogged yesterday that “ policies no longer sustainable”. This may be the first instance of a press gallery journalist saying that, and this week could be seen in future as the tipping point. Quoting Espiner:

A year sure is a long time in politics. Remember “sustainability”? Remember how New Zealand was going to become the world’s first “carbon neutral” country? Remember electric cars, 90% renewable energy, bold plans to slash vehicle emissions by 40%?

The United Nations sure does. It’s awarded Prime Minister Helen Clark a gong for her commitment to fighting climate change, despite the fact that not a single of these pledges has yet been formally implemented, let alone had any effect. Our carbon emissions went up last year, not down. They’ll probably be up again this year.

And yet funnily enough you don’t hear much from the Government these days about sustainability. The plan to allow councils to whack an extra 15c on to every litre of petrol is on the back-burner. The idea to force petrol companies to blend their gas with a minimum 5% biofuel suddenly doesn’t seem like such a good idea when respectable environmental lobby groups are warning that most of the world’s biofuel production is unsustainable, is being achieved by felling rainforest, and has led to a huge increase in world food prices.

Add to this that the scheme at the heart of the Government’s ambitious plans to tackle climate change, the Emissions Trading Scheme (), is under heavy fire, and not just from the usual suspects. A bevy of reports from respected consultancies and research firms like the Cawthron Institute, the Institute of Economic Research, and Infometrics say the ETS will cost the country a fortune, will only result in a marginal reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and could have severe unintended environmental side-effects.

Coming up with solutions which are good for the Environment and do not hurt consumers and businesses greatly is not easy. This is why soundbites such as “carbon neutrality” are so irresponsible. It’s also one reasons why I support roll out of fibre to the home – it is one of the few policies which should be both good for the economy and good for the environment.

Paula Oliver in the Herald reports the Government is now considering delays, as sticking extra costs on petrol at a time when prices are already record high will probably just be seen as revenue collecting. The beneficial effects of encouraging more fuel efficient vehicles and more public transport use are already happening at $1.85 a litre I suspect and a few cents more may have little effect except to piss people off.

Timing is everything sometimes!

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