Oram on ETS debacle: Business Council for Sustainable Development ordered to shut up by big emitters; Nick Smith guilty of ’breathtaking hypocrisy’

By Gareth Renowden 22/11/2009

Fonterra and other big emitters have used their clout to silence the Business Council for Sustainable Development from commenting on National’s proposed changes to the emissions trading scheme, Rod Oram reveals in his Sunday Star Times column today.

…on November 5 Barry Harris, Fonterra’s head of milk supply and sustainability, delivered a withering speech to the council’s meeting. There were 31 other representatives of corporate members in attendance. Harris sharply criticised the council for what he considered its failure to represent the interests of members like Fonterra that “had a lot of skin in the game”.

The council’s insight into how opposed much of the public and some of business is to the ETS changes has clearly rattled some of its less sustainable members. According to some attendees, council chairman Bob Field, chairman of Toyota New Zealand, ordered council staff to stop making public statements on the ETS.

Perhaps Fonterra and Toyota believe that business can only be sustainable if it is protected from the costs of its polluting ways. The huge subsidies, of course, are their’s by right. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if some of the less hypocritical members of the BCSD will make their voices heard.

In a coruscating column, Oram calls Nick Smith’s headlong rush in to bad legislation “breathtaking hypocrisy”, and quotes extensively from Smith’s comments a year ago when Labour’s ETS was being debated in Parliament.

Oram’s take on the current situation is right on the money:

National is making a dreadful mistake if it believes it can railroad through incompetent, damaging legislation hugely favouring heavy emitters.

At the next election, it will be easy for Labour and Greens to win support from the substantial number of voters who want an ETS that might actually cut emissions. Such an ETS would save the next government some $2 billion a year in subsidies to the heavy emitters, money voters would like spent instead on them and investment in new, clean technologies.

The whole column is worth a read. It’s Oram at his well-informed, combative best.