NZ climate policy shambles, and other summer reading

By Gareth Renowden 17/12/2012

It’s summer down south, and New Zealand’s politicians have embarked on their summer break. It’s summer in Waipara too, and with yesterday topping 30ºC and today heading in the same direction, your blogger has immediate climate concerns of an irrigation and vine management nature to attend to. So, with apologies for what may turn out to be less frequent posting over the next few weeks, here’s a quick round-up of stuff worth reading.

The NZ government will be relieved to be heading to the beaches after being battered by a hail of criticism for their climate policies over the last week. Brian Fallow, the NZ Herald‘s economics editor, was especially direct in his dissection of NZ’s climate policy settings post-Doha:

The Government’s climate change policy is a shambles and a disgrace. Unless, that is, you are happy for the costs of the inevitable adjustment to a low-carbon future to be needlessly increased and pushed onto the young, in which case it is doing a great job.

Gareth Morgan joined in, calling for the government to come clean about what its policies really mean:

National really should be proud of its pragmatic judgement that capping emissions is beyond us. At least then New Zealanders would be faced with that fact and could begin to think about our future. With a dairy industry that has raised the number of cows from 2 to 4.5million and is incentivised to keep expanding those numbers ad infinitum, there is no chance emissions will be capped. Isn’t the relevant question then whether that’s the sort of industry we wish to underwrite?

Bear in mind that the average industrial dairy unit in Canterbury produces as much raw sewage as a small town, NZ’s rivers and lakes are being polluted by agricultural run-off, and that dairy farmers and their business arm Fonterra appear to have a stranglehold on agricultural policy. If Morgan’s question was put to the general population — the population that is paying taxes to subsidise agricultural emissions, seemingly in perpetuity — then there would be only one answer.

All of this is proving frustrating for sustainable business expert David Thompson, writing in Idealog:

The scientists aren’t wrong about the threat, I’m not wrong about our capability and the last I heard, the Flying Spaghetti Monster was unable to fit us into his busy schedule. So unless someone can give me a really good argument why we’re better off doing nothing, let’s take control. Now.

That call to action is echoed (on a somewhat bigger stage) by Naomi Klein, in an interview at The Phoenix where she discusses her involvement with Bill McKibben’s Do The Math campaign, and her decision to have a child:

If anything, the experience has made Klein all the more a fighter. She now believes that denying her desire to have a child, because of the mess being made by those willing to destroy the planet for profit, would be a form of surrender.

“I guess what I want to say is, I don’t want to give them that power,” she told me. “I’d rather fight like hell than give these evil motherfuckers the power to extinguish the desire to create life.”

Klein’s views on how to approach the emissions problem — nationalise the oil companies — are hardly likely to enter the mainstream any time soon, but we need people like her articulating approaches that go beyond the business as usual approach that created the mess — both economic and climate-related — that we have to start cleaning up. And it’s getting more and more difficult the longer we allow the people who claim to be our leaders to do nothing.