Sunday, May 18, 2008

Scissors out for emissions trading scheme

As I expected, New Zealand's emissions trading scheme (ETS), designed to combat climate change, has been modified as rising prices have made life more difficult.

Prime Minister Helen Clark has already acknowledged the "pain at the pump" by delaying the introduction of transport into the ETS, putting off until 2011 the expected 6c to 8c rise in petrol prices that is likely to result.

Miss Clark has also indicated that local bodies will not be able to impose, all at once, the 5c-a-litre regional fuel levy allowed for in legislation currently going through Parliament.

And now National Party leader John Key, in his announcement today that "National will not support the Climate Change Bill going to a second reading in Parliament", says "the ETS must strike a balance between New Zealand's environmental and economic interests. It should not attempt to make New Zealand a world leader on climate change. Kiwis simply can't afford to pay the price for that particular experiment".

A call for "balance" always sounds reasonable. But as I have always pointed out, establishing a "balance" during a period of economic decline inevitably means that more and more must be sacrificed on the environmental front. And ultimately, an environmental sacrifice that would have been resoundingly rejected at the beginning of the "balancing" process must be made to appear acceptable in the light of "new, harsher economic realities".

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