Goff balks at the task

By Bryan Walker 11/09/2009

It doesn’t look as if we can expect transformational leadership from Labour leader Phil Goff so far as climate change is concerned.  Readers of my review of  David Orr’s Down to the Wire, may recall that Orr stated that one of the challenges of such leadership in the time ahead is to help us understand the connections between our energy choices and ecological consequences. Goff appears to be backing off from that before he starts.  In this morning’s Herald he nominates two initiatives of the previous government on energy use as ’mistakes’.  One was the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs, the other encouraging builders to restrict hot water flow through showers.   

’We’d stopped listening to what people’s priorities were and seemed to be working on issues they thought were sideshows.”

Ecological consequences?  That’s a bit much for politicians to be expected to handle.  Electoral consequences, now that’s something we know about.  New Zealanders don’t like those funny eco-bulbs.  Therefore we were silly to try to make them standard. 

It wasn’t silly at all.  It was important and would have made a significant difference to our level of electricity use. It provides a large immediate gain in energy efficiency. Many other countries have seen this and are phasing out incandescent bulbs, including the EU, Australia, Canada, Argentina and parts of the US.  Gerry Brownlee’s action in reversing the decision was ignorant and irresponsible.  Goff should be saying so.

Another function of Orr’s transformational leadership is that it prepares the public to understand the scope, scale and duration of climate destabilisation. Goff doesn’t seem to want a bar of this: 

’…people thought Labour should have been more focused on what really counted for them, such as the struggle to make ends meet.’ 

I was a little shocked by the degree of caving-in Goff’s remarks seem to indicate.  He could have said the public mightn’t have liked what we were proposing, but they were small but important steps in combating climate change, there would have been a lot more to come because this is an issue of enormous consequence for the human future,  and we’re going to keep making that absolutely clear in opposition.  Evidently they’re not.  Sad for us all if that proves to be the case.