Should the Greens support the Government’s ETS?

The Green Party is asking for public feedback on whether it should support or oppose the Government’s proposed greenhouse emissions trading scheme – see Jeanette Fitzsimons’ media release today.

My personal preference is for a simple “carbon” tax on greenhouse gas emissions (including N20, which is not actually a carbon compound).

Failing that, I could live with a strong emissions trading scheme with rapid introduction of transport and agriculture.

The Government’s scheme doesn’t do this, and there seems to have been little progress through negotiations between the Greens and Government in strengthening it.

I don’t agree with Chris Trotter’s analysis. To the contrary, I actually think the Greens could be dumped into the same greenwash bucket as Labour and National and be seen as abandoning their environmental roots if they support an ETS that is ineffective.

Having nothing to differentiate themselves from a weak Labour response to climate change will imo likely cost the Greens votes, rather than gain them.

Sure, Labour may go into “attack advertising” mode agaisnt the Greens, but that actually helped the Greens when National under Shipley did it in 1999. The EB’s effort at the last election was more of a mixed blessing, but I think that also did not do the Greens much harm – maybe cost one seat.

We can always start again after the election, and while I agree that urgent action is necessary on climate change, I don’t think a one year delay in the introduction of an ETS (or even better, a carbon tax, if the Greens can get enough electoral support to get that on the table again) would be particularly significant if we can bring forward the dates that transport and agriculture actually start paying for their emissions.

The other difficulty with supporting a weak ETS is that it is very hard to undo even if the political climate swings in favour of the Greens. People acquire property rights through an ETS, and you can imagine how some of them will bleat if there are future proposals to legislate over those property rights to implement more effective measures to curb greenhouse emissions.

The Greens are seeking feedback on this issue over the next few days. Their caucus needs to make a decision next Tuesday. So post responses here on whether you think the Greens should support the Government’s ETS, but also email them to

6 thoughts on “Should the Greens support the Government’s ETS?

  1. I don’t know how on earth one deals with a situation like this. The Greens are like a dependent, with the option of staying with an abusive parent or striking it alone, with all that that entails.

    It’s all rather depressing.

  2. Pingback: Will the Greens sacrifice themselves for the ETS? | Kiwiblog

  3. Supporting this policy is a bad idea for the Greens. It is poor policy, and will get watered down further as impacts are known. It has high costs with low benefits.

    The Green policy is a carbon tax – a policy that has high benefits and low costs. It is a far better policy, and the Greens should go into the election campaigning on it. There is a good chance that the Greens could pull 8-9% of the vote, and strike a deal with the Nats on this – probably a deal to abstain on confidence and supply.

    So, basically the options at the moment for the Greens are:

    1. Support a flawed ETS, knowing it won’t achieve your objectives and will get watered down further from where it is. Continue to bleed support, and be at risk of not being in parliament after the election. Further, even if you are in parliament, not being part of government or having any significant influence in the next term – no policy concessions.

    2. Reject the flawed ETS, campaign well. Come back into parliament with a decent number of seats, and deal with National. If you get a carbon tax and maybe a couple of other minor concessions in return for abstention – well, that is a hell of a lot more than you achieved this term being Labour’s poodle.

    Sure, it is a risk, bird in the hand and all that. But the ETS as it stands really achieves little, so what is the worst case here? Seems to me worst case is National pass an ETS that is pretty similar. Best case, you get a deal for a proper carbon tax. Easy choice.

  4. Paul – I seem to remember that the Nat’s refused to support a carbon tax when it was raised in the early 2000’s. Why would they do so now. Really they’d prefer to do nothing and hope it all goes away.

  5. Lprent- I think you’re forgetting that if the ETS doesn’t go through it’s likely that both Labour and the Greens will put a lot of pressure on during the campaign for strong environmental policy. National might not have a choice.

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