Well, so much for “balance”, the Government has decided to sell out the very minimum target to prevent catastrophic climate change for short-term profit. We needed at least a 40% target for this, but despite a significant helping hand from the Greens, National has barely tried. Now, I wouldn’t have minded if a large chunk of our target was conditional- (like say the last 30% was phased in based on different conditions) I understand that New Zealand probably has some of the most expensive emissions to reduce or offset, even though I disagree with the exact figures the government is using.
But there are lots of really good ways to do that- and ironically, most of the big ones save money in the long term, and are really a double investment1 rather than just an emissions cut. The problem appears to be that National just doesn’t want to stand up to its business backers on climate change, and is perfectly willing to accept the premise of completely flawed research that deliberately doubles the likely costs of reducing emissions. This means the complaints we’re hearing about a 40% target really belong to an 80% target. (which, by the by, would actually be ambitious) Nobody is asking for an 80% cut, so the government should settle down and stop raising strawpeople.
Instead we’re likely to have a 10% emissions target, a quarter of what we need, because odds are bad that any specific concessions to make things easier for us developed countries who caused this problem will happen in Copenhagen are not good, and that second 10% of the target is conditional on it being easy for us to get savings from forestry. Holding back a large part of our target is smart. But why on one condition? When you negotiate, you do best to open up as many options for people to come up with an agreeable package. Float 10% on conditional targets being enough to hit a 40% worldwide reduction, for instance. Then we can say we’re willing to do our part if the rest of the world does theirs. Put another 5% on actual reduction of emissions in developing countries- even if we’re the ones paying for the reduction, it still needs to happen everywhere. Getting China to sign on to a net reduction is a really important step in meeting a global target.
Finally, put another 5% of our target conditional on our being recognised as a unique climate change haven for pacific countries, acting to mitigate the social effects as well as the ecological effects of climate change. Even in our best-case, 40% reduction scenario, many pacific islanders will still lose their homes, and we’re likely to be the ones taking in the vast majority of these eco-refugees. We should offer to take in any and all of these refugees that make it to New Zealand- if in return we get rules that allow us to reduce our agricultural emissions without worrying about getting pushed out of the market by cheaper, dirtier farming practices- apparently the biggest reason for our cop-out of a target.
Between these conditions, it’s likely we’d end up with a higher target, (because we’d be far more likely to get some of our conditions on our conditional targets met) but also with a much more agreeable global regime that would not make that target specifically hard on us, and would probably make us some good money towards it, too. It would be good for business to be seen as doing our part here, and for pushing for a stronger agreement using our targets, even if we didn’t end up making a very aggressive promise in the end.
Now someone just needs to convince the government… 😉 Let’s hope Keisha makes a good cup of tea.
1 I say double investment because an emissions cut is itself an investment.