Let's talk about our climate policy

15 February 2023

It's time New Zealand has a grown-up conversation about our climate policy.

By Steven Cranston, DemocracyNZ Candidate for Waikato and Spokesperson for Climate Change. 

I’m personally not in favour of politicising a climatic event while we are still in the grip of its devastation. The recent flooding has caused massive damage in the upper North Island, and many people are still struggling with its consequences. That notion has certainly not been shared by politicians and climate scientists who have emerged from the debris to point the blame for this event squarely on our meat-eating and fossil-fuel-loving ways. Since the politicisation of the weather has already begun, let’s talk climate policy.

New Zealand is a minor emitter and not the issue.

The first point our climate alarmist fraternity needs to grasp is that nothing we do here in New Zealand will make the slightest bit of difference to the weather we receive. It would not matter if every New Zealander was already driving an EV, or if we had reverted to 100% coal fired power generation. The flooding event we are enduring would be exactly the same.

The purpose of climate action here in New Zealand is not what most people think. It’s not about saving the planet from climate Armageddon, since the weather is well and truly outside our control. The real purpose is to demonstrate we are good global citizens, willing to sacrifice economic growth and impose heavy restrictions and costs on our way of life so we can adhere to a global climate agenda.  

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the climate warming projections are correct, and humans are the predominant factor driving climate change. How is it in the interests of Kiwis to get ahead of the global pack by imposing one of the highest carbon prices in the world? Global emissions are dominated by the big players: China, India, and the US. Imposing strict climate regulations here, at great expense to our economy, is entirely meaningless while other countries continue to increase emissions unabated.

The ETS should be scrapped.

Around $2.5 billion is paid into the ETS each year. That is money out of every single New Zealander’s pocket. Everything we do and buy in this country results in some form of emissions tax.

At over $70 per ton, we pay many times more for our emissions than our top trading partners. Billions of dollars are being sucked out of the New Zealand economy to be spent on public transport projects people don’t use, subsidies for EVs and wind turbines, frivolous research projects, and the blanketing of productive farmland in trees. None of this makes our lives any better.

If these recent floods have taught us anything, it is that we need to focus our attention on building resilience. Reducing the carbon price that is stifling our economy should be the first step.

A financially strong country will weather any storm better than a poor one. Secondly, revenue that is raised by the ETS must be directed towards tangible assets like roading, stronger bridges, retaining walls, and flood management. This investment is required regardless. Climate spending should go towards making sure we are prepared for a gradually warming climate, not inflating the share price of Tesla.

Linking our carbon price to that of our trading partners makes sense on every level. It would reduce the price down to below $20 per ton, helping alleviate the cost-of-living crisis. It will also show we are doing our share but not virtue-signalling to other countries - who frankly, couldn’t care less what we do here in New Zealand. The only countries with a higher carbon price than New Zealand are in the EU; if they believe we should be paying more, they can easily drop some of their trade barriers and increase bilateral trade which would in turn shift our price closer to their own.

Trying to lead the pack on green technology is self-defeating.

We are in fact getting ahead of the technology before it is cost-efficient or fit-for-purpose. It’s akin to buying the Nokia 1100 and continually upgrading it, rather than being patient and going straight for the iPhone 14. When green technology is ready for widespread uptake, people will buy it anyway. If subsidies are still required, it’s obviously not there yet.

Of course, there is also the elephant in the room: all of our climate policy is predicated on the assumption that atmospheric warming will increase dramatically, and humans are to blame. This may well be correct, but the level of uncertainty is far greater than climate scientists are willing to acknowledge. After scaring the world with apocalyptic predictions of 4 to 5 degree warming by 2100 if we don’t enact draconian emissions reductions, the UN has now quietly - and without any fanfare, revised that back to 2.5 degrees. This is now within the margin of error of the 2 degrees of warming the IPCC is asking countries to spend trillions trying to mitigate.

The reality is we still don’t know what the climate will do over the next 80 years, and we certainly haven’t come anywhere close to pinpointing how much warming can be attributed to human activity as opposed to natural cycles. Our politicians’ attempts to change the weather by throwing billions of dollars into a climate slush fund will be viewed very dimly by our grandchildren who are set to pick up the tab.

It's time New Zealand has a grown-up conversation about our climate policy. DemocracyNZ believes in evidence over ideology and will stand up for grassroots Kiwis who are tired of poorly designed policy that does not work.

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