Friday, November 9, 2012

!00% Down the Gurgler


This National led Government cares about the environment a great deal and they even have a special branch or appendage of the party called the "Blue Greens" that is totally devoted to environmental concerns. Such is their passion for the environment that this group have devoted much of their energies to a single project of great national significance, the Meola Creek Restoration Project. They even have an impressive plan of action:
As part of our action plan, we'll be:
  • cleaning up the creek to remove litter and waste
  • monitoring the creek regularly to gauge the success of planting
  • clearing weeds prior to planting
  • undertaking restoration planting at designated site over some planting days
  • providing regular maintenance of planted sites
  • Highlight our activities at the Grey Lynn Festival

I guess for those who live near this creek or attend the nearby Decile 7 Mt Albert Grammar school, they are very grateful for the Blue Greens' efforts. I'm not sure what the St Lukes Environmental Society think about the BGs, however, as they claim to be responsible for the all the cleaning, planting and even the building of a boardwalk.

This National led Government cares about the environment so much that they changed the purpose of DoC from preserving our wild places in perpetuity to "Conservation leadership for a prosperous New Zealand". They then gutted the department by cutting their budget by $54 million. Gerry Brownlee had the brilliant idea of creating some "prosperity" for us by "surgically" removing some valuable minerals (mainly coal) from our National Parks and then was surprised when one or two New Zealanders ungratefully protested against his plan.


UNESCO will be interested to hear that the South West New Zealand World Heritage Park (encompassing Fiordland), that was granted this status due to its pristine nature, may have a road tunnel drilled through a major mountain range and a monorail constructed within the park. DoC's new purpose has seen it welcome commercial interests to make significant changes to the natural environment for private profit. A bus trip through a mountain tunnel and a monorail train trip through cleared bush is seen as adding something to the tourist experience of this natural wonderland.

Prime Minister John Key has shown considerable skill with promoting our 100% Pure brand overseas. When interviewed on BBCs Hardtalk he was able to quickly dismiss the quoted claim of respected scientist Mike Joy that we have many native species heading for extinction and 90% of our rivers polluted. To the astonishment of the interviewer Key claimed that compared to most other countries we were 100% Pure and that he would find another scientist to provide a differing view as he didn't like Mike Joy's.

This National led Government expresses concern about how the rapid growth of dairying and the intensification of farming is having a huge impact on our rivers. They have made it very clear, however, that in times of economic hardship balancing an economic recovery with environmental protection becomes more difficult and when Environment Canterbury couldn't shift the balance towards farming interests with enough haste, they sacked the councillors and replaced them with commissioners.  Even though the Government promised to allow elections to occur again in 2013 they have decided to continue the arrangement (against the advice of the Human Rights Commissioner). I guess democracy impedes economic growth and shouldn't be encouraged. There are even plans to establish unitary authorities around the country that will see regional councils cease to exist at all.



With the continuing effects of farming on our rivers we are seeing the pollutants being passed on to our lakes, lagoons and estuaries and many are reaching saturation levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments. New Zealand's environmental management ranking has plummeted from being 1st in the OECD to 15th since 2006. Desperate times call for desperate measures and this National led Government has decided that the enormity of our environmental catastrophe should be hidden, rather than take remedial action, and our clean image should be protected even if it is a fiction. To this end the Government has decided, against the advice of the Environment Commissioner, that they won't publish the five yearly State of the Environment report (due to be released this December) as it will make dismal reading. It would probably be best that New Zealanders and the world knew as little as possible about what is really happening.


This National led Government claim that they accept the science around climate change and even have it mentioned on their Blue Green web page. They also decided to continue with Labour's Emission Trading Scheme, but with a few tweaks. Although New Zealand has amongst the worst levels of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world, the Government has determined that we are too small to make a difference in a global sense and that we should exempt our major polluters and subsidise their emissions instead (to the tune of $150- 300 million of tax payer support per year). It was thought that we should wait for the likes of the US to get serious about their emissions before we really commit. To lesson the impact of the subsidies the Government has managed to drive down the value of our carbon credits from $20 a tonne to $3 a tonne. This may be a death blow to our forest industry but it will help the Government balance its books and give yet another boost to farmers and the struggling coal industry. The Government's commitment to road transport and building motorways will also contribute to our growing transport emissions and this will also prove costly in time.

I guess that the Government has decided that maintaining a clean environment and our 100% Pure brand is too hard, despite the recommendations of Pure Advantage, and have decided to withdraw from the legally binding Kyoto protocol. We once led the world with our environmental credibility but now we are joining China and the US by focussing on short term economic goals instead of making a longer term commitment to working towards an environmentally sustainable economy.

From 100% Pure we are now 100% down the environmental gurgler!

I thought I would end this post with a photo of the leading Blue Greens who must shoulder a good deal of the responsibility for the extent our current environmental commitment (at least Meola Creak appears to be looking good).


Back row (from left): Paul Hutchison, Ian McKelvie, Amy Adams, Scott Simpson, Nikki Kaye, Jacqui Dean, Chris Auchinvole, Nicky Wagner, Kater Wilkinson, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Cam Calder, Louise Upston, Tau Henare. Front row (from left): Tim Macindoe, Colin King, Maggie Barry. (Absent: Tim Groser).

POST SCRIPT

Kennedy Graham is an educated man and his sixteen years of experience in the NZ Foreign Service means he understands the danger of loose words and claims without substance. His charge of "ecocide" against this National led Government was not done lightly nor from a sudden emotionally charged impulse. While the accusation was serious (and supported with a good deal of fact) he still referred to the government members in a respectful manner. His speech was not respectfully received and he had to endure continuous personal abuse throughout. The sooner we remove this ideologically driven, ignorant government the better we will be.

8 comments:

robertguyton said...

Environmental and economic terrorists; John Key, Gerry Brownlee, Steven Joyce...and the other craven figures of the National Party responsible for this anti-environment behaviour, will be shunted out at the coming election. Then the repairing will begin.

bsprout said...

Kennedy Graham is quite correct, we are watching, and experiencing, a deliberate act of ecocide:
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10846094

survivor said...

Hi, can you expand on how the Nats have driven down the value of carbon credits? I was not aware of this.

Also, please it's doing my head in, can you just email me a copy of your BG image and I'll straighten it for you.

james.redwood@slingshot.co.nz

bsprout said...

Surviver- Countries that use carbon credits as a real incentive to reduce carbon emissions are able to maintain the value of the credits by stopping the sale of cheap ones from poorer countries. Our Government hasn't done this and so rather than buy credits from our local foresters, businesses who need to offset their emissions can now do so by purchasing cheap $3 ones from Eastern Europe.
http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/rural/118978/foresters-urge-limit-on-foreign-carbon-credits

Thanks for the offer of "fixing" my photo. I've emailed it to you. :-)

Robin Johnson's Economics Web Page said...

@Survivor/James,
The Nats have not driven down the price of carbon in NZ. But they have not responded to the drop in price of NZ carbon to less than $3. See CommTrade for the NZ carbon price. The NZETS allows importing of international carbon credits - which number in billions. So the international price sets the NZ price. The link to international carbon price dates back to Labour's original ETS design. See NZETS you are the weakest international link.
Cheers

bsprout said...

Robin - I said that National had driven down the price of carbon credits because they have deliberately not provided for a minimum price policy within the ETS and allowed these cheaper credits to be available. Here is a quote from Geoff Thompson's article:

"However, in an abrupt and controversial shift in emphasis, the scheme's reliance on a trading market to set a reasonable price for carbon is now undermined. The value of units is heading for zero as the Government refuses to limit the quantity of cheap and dubious credits New Zealand emitters and industry can import to offset their carbon footprint. New Zealand is the only market not applying a limit, based on a Treasury assertion that the atmosphere doesn't care where the carbon reductions occur so spending our funds in Ukraine, Russia and Hungary is an adequate response to climate change obligations. That is barmy reasoning because the impact is serious long term."

Robin Johnson's Economics Web Page said...

Just to be state clearly, I am very much a critic of Tim Groser and Nick Smith and National's approach to the NZETS. I certainly agree with Robert Guyton's (1st comment) description of Key, Brownlee and Joyce. I was just pointing out that the recent sub-$3 price of a NZ unit is a direct consequence of 1) very low international unit prices and 2) the design of the NZETS that allows importing of international units (i.e. a high degree of international linkage in the NZETS). And that linking was hardwired into the 2007 Labour 'Framework for an ETS' report (http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/climate/framework-emissions-trading-summary-sep07/html/index.html) and the 2008 Labour version of the NZETS. So if we still had the 2008 NZETS now (assuming no other changes) we would still have a carbon price of less than $3 a tonne.
Yes I have read some of Geoff Thompson's articles such as this one http://www.stuff.co.nz/marlborough-express/news/7859591/Worries-over-carbon-strategy
I don't really agree that there has been "an abrupt and controversial shift in emphasis" by National over the ETS. I think Groser is sticking to the PR script written for him by Business NZ - "least cost to business" and on that basis Groser is very unlikely to lift a finger to help foresters who own $3 NZ units.
I also note Geoff Thompson was a member of David Caygill's ETS review panel. Did he push hard for a price floor? As that is as far as I can see the only logical policy response you can make in an ETS to a price decline. The forester's idea of requiring emitters to surrender NZ issued forestry units for at least half of their emissions is a third-best option.

bsprout said...

Thanks for that detail, Robin, I appreciate getting informed comments like this.

The ETS has basically been set up to fail in its original purpose. The most effective and sensible solution would be the introduction of a direct carbon tax as promoted by James Hansen.

Removing New Zealand from Kyoto was the final straw to having any credibility around reducing our emissions.