Will Ian Carline get his wish?

Last week I blogged about a letter in the Southland Times from ACT’s Invercargill candidate Ian Carline advocating coal-fired electricity generation.

Now the National-ACT confidence and supply agreement has been signed, it seems that Carline may be a step closer to getting his wish. The section of the agreement about climate change reads:

National is committed to retaining measures to address New Zealand’s Kyoto obligations, by making amendments to the legislation that will balance our environmental responsibilities with our economic needs. ACT campaigned on a policy of abolishing the ETS.

National agrees to a review by a special select committee of Parliament of the current Emissions Trading Scheme legislation and any amendments or alternatives to it, including carbon taxes, in the light of current economic circumstances and steps now being undertaken by similar nations.
National further agrees to pass forthwith an amendment to the ETS legislation delaying its implementation, repealing the thermal generation ban and making any other necessary interim adjustments until the select committee review is completed.

ACT is not opposed to New Zealand adopting responsible climate change policies. What it opposes is an ETS that was never adequately justified. If a rigorous select committee inquiry establishes a credible case that New Zealanders would benefit from action by New Zealand, in conjunction with other countries that are important to us, ACT would be prepared to support legislation giving effect to such action. National agrees that the Terms of Reference for such an inquiry will be mutually agreed between ACT and National and that the Terms of Reference proposed by ACT are attached as Appendix 1 will be an initial basis for discussion.

And here are the trems of reference proposed by ACT:

The Committee shall:

  • hear competing views on the scientific aspects of climate change from internationally respected sources and assess the quality and impartiality of official advice
  • hear views from trade and diplomatic experts on the international relations aspects of this issue
  • consider the prospects for an international agreement on climate change post Kyoto I, and the form such an agreement might take
  • require a high quality, quantified regulatory impact analysis to be produced to identify the net benefits or costs to New Zealand of any policy action, including international relations and commercial benefits and costs
  • consider the impact on the New Zealand economy and New Zealand households of any climate change policies, having regard to the weak state of the economy, the need to safeguard New Zealand’s international competitiveness, the position of trade-exposed industries, and the actions of competing countries
  • examine the relative merits of a mitigation or adaptation approach to climate change for New Zealand
  • consider the case for increasing resources devoted to New Zealand-specific climate change research
  • examine the relative merits of an emissions trading scheme or a tax on carbon or energy as a New Zealand response to climate change
  • consider the need for any additional regulatory interventions to combat climate change if a price mechanism (an ETS or a tax) is introduced
  • consider the timing of introduction of any New Zealand measures, with particular reference to the outcome of the December 2009 Copenhagen meeting, the position of the United States, and the timetable for decisions and their implementation of the Australian government.

Future work on climate change, including the work of the select committee, shall be resourced by a high quality advisory group comprising government officials and private sector experts.

Okay, so didn’t we have a Select Committee that’s already done most of this? It attracted 259 submissions representing a wide range of the sectors and interests that will be affected by the introduction of emissions trading in New Zealand and by the restriction on new fossilfuelled generation. The Committee heard from 161 of those submitters during 58 hours of hearings in April and May 2008 and then spent 16 hours in posthearing consideration.

So just what new evidence do National and ACT think will become available to their special Select Committee that wasn’t available to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee dealing with exactly the same issues in the last Parliament?

Of course, there will be no new evidence. This whole exercise is aimed at stalling doing anything to address climate change for another three years. On National’s part, this is because addressing climate change in any meaningful manner will annoy powerful farming and roading interests that helped to get them elected. On ACT’s part, it is because their ideological position doesn’t allow them to accept anthropogenic climate change – their peculiar logic is that if the free market can’t fix it, then it must not be happening.

Meanwhile, it seems that we all sit around for another three years doing nothing about climate change. Meanwhile, repealing the moratorium on further thermal power generation is one of National’s and ACT’s highest priorities.

So Ian Carline might just get his wish, but I can promise him and his mates in ACT that there will be plenty of us putting up a formidable resistance to their plans to stuff up the planet further by burning even more coal when there are renewable and sustainable alternatives readily available.