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Robin Grieve

Carbon zero bill will derail our economy and wellbeing 

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The Climate Change amendment (zero carbon) bill which will have major implications to our way of life is being rushed through Parliament and watching it progress is as horrifying as watching a train wreck in slow motion.

The crashed train will surely be our economy and our wellbeing for which the bill itself predicts a poor outcome.

Section 3A of the bill requires the Minister to recognize and mitigate the impacts of this bill on Maori people. You don’t mitigate good outcomes, so clearly the Government anticipates we non Maori people are in for a tough time. It is baffling that the Government believes such racism is acceptable and also how on earth it believes it can honour this requirement for special treatment for Maori people. Are we to have petrol prices based on race now? 

Notwithstanding the hardship this bill promises, if you accept that we need to reduce carbon emissions, then the concept of the bill seems on the face of it feasible. Use market forces to reduce emissions by pricing them through the Emissions Trading Scheme. The all-knowing and wise climate commission will set carbon budgets that will continually reduce the carbon we are allowed to emit and simultaneously prevent any detrimental impact that this has on the economy and our wellbeing, and magically we will transform painlessly in to a carbon neutral economy. Job done.

The reality will be quite different. Reality will hit when it is realized that the polluter is not the dairy farmer, it is the baby who needs milk formula to survive. The polluter is not the evil oil company, it is the mother driving her sick child to the doctor.  Reality will hit when the financial devastation to poor communities and the personal hardships to families from this carbon zero bill become more of a reality than the rising sea. Reality will hit when those who have marched in the streets demanding the Government take action to reduce emissions realise it is not the Government that produces these emissions, it is us the consumer.

James Shaw thinks the bill is a good idea because he likens the concept of the climate commission setting carbon budgets to that of the Reserve Bank influencing the money supply to achieve certain goals. What he forgets is that the Reserve bank always works in the best interest of the New Zealand economy and so the benefits flow to us, whereas New Zealand trying to reduce its carbon emissions will provide no identifiable and quantifiable benefit to New Zealanders even if it succeeds. It is also highly likely the climate commission will not be able to achieve any reduction in emissions of note, despite punitive policies that make us poorer. This bill is not in any way in the best interests of New Zealanders. There will be no environmental benefits and the often hinted trade benefits are illusions. New Zealand is clamouring to trade with China and all its coal powered products after all.

The politicians may feel that voters want this bill and our deep thinking journalists in the media are certainly claiming it is essential to save the planet, but when those voters realise it is they who are paying the price, not the oil company and what is more it is not saving the planet because China is still building a new coal powered power station every week, they are going to be looking to vote someone out. 

If you really want to ascertain how people truly feel about global warming you don’t base it on the kids screaming in the streets because some global warming sicko told them they are going to die from the weather, you don’t base it on the rantings of people for whom global warming is just the problem they need to be able to justify the societal change they say is the answer, you don’t base it on our un objective mainstream media, you base it on behavior and when just 4% or air travelers care enough to pay an extra $1.50 on their airfare to offset their carbon emissions and when Wellington airport’s market research identifies it will need to double capacity in 20 years, you know that people don’t really care that much.

And if they don’t care that much now, see how little they care about it when our Government starts doing daft things that mess up the economy in an attempt to reduce emissions.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to make an economy fail is to put up the price of energy, which this bill will do. James Shaw will argue that this allows investment to flow in to green projects that will reduce emissions, and perhaps they would eventually, but the increased price of petrol will be irritating the rich and devastating the poor so much so that eventually will be too far away.

The yellow vests in Paris and the protests in Chile over punitive climate policies should tell our politicians they are on the wrong track.

It should also be noted that any green investment that does flow from this sort of policy comes at the expense of our prosperity. It is also more often than not that such green investments have dire unintended consequences because the checks and balances of free market enterprise are not there. Biofuel was once promoted as the saviour of the world until it was realized it was causing widespread starvation. A UN committee called it the greatest crime against humanity ever. Shane Jones’s billion tree programme learnt nothing from that.

Government’s should also be wary of making bold promises to reduce emissions by planting trees because not only will this contribute to world hunger, the many detrimental impacts to the environment and to communities of replacing farmland with forests are becoming apparent. A new IPCC special report even questions whether trees have any net benefit over pastoral land at all because forests trap heat which warms the planet. Trees also emit gases which directly and indirectly cause warming and none of these factors are accounted for in the New Zealand ETS suggesting that some if not all forestry generated carbon credits are fraudulent. The Government is very much a one show pony as far as policy to reduce emissions goes and that is an ETS which is reliant on forestry. It will one day soon realise its pony is a dog and it has no way to reduce emissions.  

Extinction Rebellion with its baseless claims is also turning people away from the global warming movement with sensible people realizing the claims about the harm global warming will do are getting too silly for words. The more outrageous they are the more people are likely to think and ask why the snow Al Gore said would be gone by now, isn’t and why the Maldives are not underwater as the scientist claimed they would be by now. Our Government has played fast and loose with the truth itself with the Ministry for the Environment making false claims in the Carbon Zero Consultation document, including the Secretary for the Environment saying that “each year we are experiencing more extreme weather than the year before”. There is no official data to support such a ridiculous statement, she just made it up and in doing so signaled just how political our public service is becoming.  The consultation document is the subject of a formal complaint to the State Services Commission for the many baseless claims it made and this should cause politicians to pause before passing legislation for which the public consultation involved the Government misinforming New Zealanders.   

Agricultural biological emissions have been a point of contention in the bill and New Zealand First, Labour and the Greens insist on onerous emissions reductions that are not supported by any climate scientists of note.

The methane target of a 10% reduction by 2030 is unnecessary and unattainable. The industry agreement with farmers and the backstop ETS legislation the Government is introducing will not even get close to reducing emissions at all let alone by 10%.    

Methane emissions are not the problem anyway and are in fact they are the one and only emission success story in New Zealand, with emissions only increasing by 4% since 1990 despite not being priced. Compare that to transport emissions, which are priced in the ETS, which have increased by 93% since 1990 and continue to increase.  The idea that pricing emissions will cause emissions to reduce is not supported by the facts.

What is even more crazy about the Government’s desire to reduce methane emissions is that all the modelling and all the reports it relied on to set the targets stated clearly that reductions in total emissions will only be achieved by reducing or at least capping food production. With the global population expected to be close to 10 billion by 2050 that is pretty selfish and anti human. Reducing food production and even potential food production is also in contravention of Article 2 of the Paris agreement which requires that mitigation does not threaten food production. The crime biofuel turned out to be is still uppermost in the minds of the UN but sadly the New Zealand Government appears unconcerned about global hunger. 

 Reducing total methane emissions in the way this Government wants is also a futile act because other countries with higher emissions footprints per kg of production than New Zealand’s will have to produce more of the food. Reductions in emissions in New Zealand will therefore likely cause increases globally. Reducing methane emissions this way is even more stupid than it would be for New Zealand to reduce its emissions by capping the flights Air New Zealand can do and letting Quantas take up the increase.

It also highlights that if this is an issue at all, it is a global issue. It is not the emissions we produce that we should focus on, it is the emissions we cause and this bill goes about everything the wrong way and focuses on the wrong emissions. This bill would incentivize a manufacturer to reduce emissions by cutting back on its exports of life saving hospital equipment as an example. 

The Government can do things to reduce emissions if it wants like build public transport, but setting up a climate commission is not the answer here. The Carbon zero bill and its climate commission may seem harmless to some and effective to others but in fact it will be neither. It will be a trainwreck that does immense harm by making New Zealand families undeniably worse off and it will all be for nothing environmentally.

When you take out the biological farm emissions which are mostly harmless because they are cyclical and atmospherically neutral, our record is good with our per capita emissions of CO2 about half that of countries like Australia and the USA and the UK. That makes it even more unbelievable that our Government would want to derail our wellbeing in this way unless its PM thought her wellbeing on the world stage was more important.