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Dr Muriel Newman

Open Letter to the Prime Minister

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Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to respectfully request that you step in to delay the passing of the Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill.

In addition, in order to prevent Labour’s existing emissions trading scheme (ETS) from taking effect from January 1st 2010, I further request that you take up ACT’s offer of support and pass an amendment to the existing legislation to delay the commencement date until at least 2011.

Prime Minister, the reason for making these requests is to prevent you and your party from making what many believe is a serious mistake. As political commentator Matthew Hooton warned, “The government is heading towards its first major train wreck as it negotiates with iwi players in a last-ditch effort to secure Maori party support to ram through its harebrained emissions trading scheme (ETS). Only intervention by the Prime Minister … will prevent it.”[1]

The point is that your party told the public of New Zealand that your ETS had to be rushed through the Parliamentary process ahead of December’s climate change meeting in Copenhagen. It was claimed that having an ETS in place would strengthen our negotiating position regarding a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol. For the record, New Zealand has an ETS on the statute books. It was put there by Labour – and it will stay there until it is repealed.

Prime Minister, you have now advised the country that no successor to the Kyoto Protocol will be signed in Copenhagen next month. That means there is now no urgency over the ETS and no justification at all for rushing it through Parliament. It is clearly time to slow down and take stock. Given the parlous state of the New Zealand economy, prudence, not haste, is called for.

Prime Minister, your government should put your ETS on hold and refrain from any further action on climate change policy until you have carefully assessed the outcome of the Copenhagen meeting. This is especially important given that the rest of the world appears to be moving away from the concept of binding agreements like the Kyoto Protocol, which have been seen to not only fail to effectively reduce emissions, but to have imposed unacceptable cost burdens on economies.

That is why ideas like the concept of ‘national schedules’, being promoted by Australia and the United States – whereby countries are able to nominate achievable domestic mitigation targets that will not cripple their economies – are gaining traction as a more appropriate way forward once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.[2]

In light of these developments, Prime Minister, if you continue with your plan to rush your ETS through ahead of the Copenhagen meeting, you would be breaching your duty of care by saddling New Zealanders with an enormously costly scheme that may be due to be phased out. If there is no commitment to carry on with Kyoto-type binding agreements after 2012, then the whole international emissions trading regime will collapse. There can be no doubt about this.

Just think of the implications the collapse of the ETS would have for the business sector. You, Prime Minister, would have compelled them to put their scarce resources into paying a carbon tax and complying with your grand scheme – a scheme that will undoubtedly cost the country thousands of jobs and cause a massive loss of wealth as manufacturers and investors move offshore. Surely this is a risk your government cannot afford to take.

Then there is the impact on your personal reputation. Do you realise, Prime Minister, that you are the only ‘conservative’ leader who, as the Wall St Journal describes it, is “pushing centrally-planned economies in the name of saving the earth.”[3] Do you really want this to be your legacy?

While activist organisations like Greenpeace can be expected to lobby for central planning and higher taxes, New Zealanders are not fixated by such acts of faith and will bitterly oppose your ETS when they realise the true cost of what they are having to pay. Even though your bill includes a subsidy to shield voters from much of the cost until after the next election, power and fuel prices will still rise, and they will push up the cost of goods and services across the board, putting upward pressure on inflation, and driving up interest rates and the exchange rate. Then how will the public be able to trust your commitment to catch Australia by 2025, when they see that it is your ETS that is dragging down the economy?

Prime Minister, a major justification given for rushing through the ETS is the need to align our scheme with Australia so that “neither country should seek to gain a competitive advantage by taking a softer line on carbon emissions.”[4] However, with public opposition to their scheme mounting, there is no guarantee that Australia’s ETS will be passed into law. That would mean that in spite of any agreements, if New Zealand introduces an ETS and Australia doesn’t, there will be a swift and disastrous (for New Zealand) exodus of Kiwi businesses across the Tasman. Further, given that Australia is proposing national schedules as the sensible way forward for Copenhagen, passing your ETS before you know what Australia is going to do is an extremely reckless course of action.

Then, there is the disturbing spectre of secret race-based deals to buy Maori Party support for the Bill. While the full details are not available, it appears that five iwi will be given thousands of hectares of conservation land to “lease” in perpetuity, for zero rental, with taxpayers being expected to front up to pay for the land to be planted in trees while the iwi will reap the benefits of harvesting the wood and selling the carbon credits![1]

What makes this deal even more obnoxious is the fact that it appears to be based on a claim by Ngai Tahu that the Crown withheld material information on the ETS and its potential impact on their forestry settlements during their Treaty of Waitangi negotiations. However, advice from Crown Law clearly disavows that notion: “there is no evidence of a breach of the Crown’s obligation under the deed of settlement”.[5] In light of this, your move to effectively privatise conservation land by gifting it to iwi – without any consultation with the public that own the DoC estate – will be totally repugnant to the vast majority of New Zealanders.

All in all, Prime Minister, the National Party is virtually standing alone regarding your ill-advised ETS. Your allies are nothing more than companions of convenience: green activists, a few iwi who are going to receive massive windfall gains, the Maori Party who can notch up yet another race-based “win” at the expense of New Zealand taxpayers, and government bureaucrats who will no doubt be pressuring you to go ahead and pass the bill. They, no doubt, are also ensuring that you are insulated from information they don’t want you to see.

For instance, Prime Minister, have you been briefed on the work of Professor Ian Plimer of Adelaide University, author of the best-selling book Heaven and Earth: Climate change – the real science? In his NZCPR article Occam’s Razor, Professor Plimer describes how the earth’s climate is constantly changing, and how the premise that underpins the ETS – that increases in man-made carbon dioxide are causing catastrophic global warming – are wrong. As he explains, “Atmospheric temperature has been decreasing in the 21st Century despite an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The [IPCC] climate models show that temperature should have been increasing in the 21st Century. This disconnect shows that carbon dioxide does not drive temperature and that models of very complex chaotic natural systems should be viewed with great caution.”

Professor Plimer continues, “Despite the 21st Century decrease in global temperature, we are perpetually warned of dangerous global warming. The proposition that climate should not change is absurd. This can only be promoted if all history, archaeology, geology, astronomy and solar physics are ignored – yet these are ignored in climate models. In effect, we are suffering climate wars with one group heroically using incomplete computer models to make predictions and another group using natural science.”

He concludes, “If an extraordinary claim is made, then extraordinary evidence must be given in support. This has not been done. Those who argue that human emissions of carbon dioxide change climate must demonstrate that changes observed today are not natural. This has not been done.”

Professor Plimer then turns his attention to emissions trading schemes: “Political decisions regarding emissions trading have had neither scientific nor financial due diligence. The major source of information derives from a political body, the IPCC, and some climate centres, such as the Hadley Centre, even refuse to release taxpayer-funded primary data for re-evaluation.”

Prime Minister, these criticisms about a lack of due diligence are valid for National’s ETS. The emissions trading review select committee expressly ruled out any investigation of the science underpinning the ETS, and without a comprehensive regulatory impact analysis having been produced by your government, proper financial analysis has not been possible. This has been a major concern of Treasury and many of the submitters to the Bill, and has now led to claims that the cost of your ETS could reach $100 billion over time.

In his article, Professor Plimer mentions the IPCC (the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) – which we have been told is your government’s primary source of information on climate change – and the UK based Hadley Centre, which has provided much of the data for IPCC reports.

Well Prime Minister, I am wondering whether you have been briefed on the major scandal (dubbed “Climategate”) that has enveloped the Hadley Centre (University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit) over the last few days, whereby 61 megabites of hacked data and emails has been posted on the internet. This information appears to show unequivocally “that scientists manipulated data to bolster their argument that global warming is genuine and is being caused by human actions.”[6] If the picture of scientists falsifying the data for IPCC reports is found to be correct – and the damning emails certainly appear to be genuine – then the underlying rationale for the ETS, the Kyoto Protocol, and all other global warming based policies, will be seen to be baseless at best, and fraudulent at worst.

So, Prime Minister, on behalf of those New Zealanders who are extremely concerned about the future ramifications of imposing an ETS now, please step in and put the scheme on hold until after Copenhagen, when you will be better informed about the future direction of international climate change agreements and the best way forward for New Zealand.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Muriel Newman
New Zealand Centre for Political Research


1.Matthew Hooton, Race-based climate deal would benefit no one. (Tabled in Parliament.)

6.Telegraph, Climate scientists accused of ‘manipulating global warming data’