Watching the tortuous progress of our home grown Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) wend it’s way through various lobby groups and the usual political posturing, got me thinking, why are we bothering?
When you hear all the excitable green hyperbole about climate change, consider that it may well be that the climate is changing. Its done it before many times over millions of years so it’s not implausible, it also might have been bought on by human activity, but then again even if there was no human activity the odds are that the climate would change anyway.
There is no doubt that for some parts of the world a warming climate could have drastic effects, especially to those countries that have populated areas that would previously have been unsuitable for human habitation by using technology – one example is on our doorstep – Australia. It will also have an effect on poorer countries in say, Africa, who are already struggling and cannot survive now without external help.
From an entirely self interested perspective, shouldn’t we be first asking “what’s in New Zealand’s interests”?
If climate change is inevitable, why are we hobbling our already exposed business sector to higher production costs than our competitors for something that may in fact not affect NZ that badly? Maybe we would be better to create a fund that tackles the results of climate change so that we are at an advantage to our competitors when the effects start to appear.
Our biggest competitors for our main export products are countries that have not signed up to any agreements to attempt to mitigate climate change, and even if they did, they are unlikely to honour them in a meaningful way.
Does anyone seriously think that countries like China, India, Russia, Brazil etc are going to put themselves down the development stakes just to participate in some trading scheme with unprovable consequences? Do you think the citizens of those countries will agree to put their material aspirations on hold because of a climatic event that could occur in the future?
Do you think the average third world factory workers lies in bed every night worrying about the possibility of rising sea levels and whether in twenty years he’ll need to buy an air-conditioner? unlikely, he’ll be worrying about the next meal, and whether some day his kids can go to university and he can have a wide screen TV! And it wont matter whether he lives in a democracy of dictatorship, if his countries leaders are thinking about their future, they will be worried about his aspirations, not the New Zealand Green Parties!
Climate change may in fact be good for NZ. If the sea level rises, we can adapt, we have plenty of land available, some crops we can’t grow now will be able to be grown, we have a small population and plenty of water. In fact we will be quite well placed.
The whole ETS is a crock. It is unlikely to change climate change events, and our annual carbon contribution probably doesn’t equal 10 minutes of China’s contribution, so why bother. Why should we go on some ideological crusade so we can be world leaders in something that is going to make our exports less competitive? We already struggle as it is, we are up against protectionist import tariffs (even with countries we have free trade agreements with), producer subsidies from South American to the EU, our distance from our markets and the increasing freight costs to those markets made worse by increasing fuel costs. Exporters, whom this country relies upon to merely maintain our very modest living standards, already have a mountain of obstacles to overcome to sell our products offshore.
So in our wisdom we throw another even bigger hurdle in front of them. All because we want to be seen to be doing something about climate change.
Our efforts are purely symbolic (and an irrelevant symbol at that) until the key polluters play the game, and they aren’t going too. We prove nothing, except that we are blinded by ideology rather than focused on our own interests, which is what our competitors in the global market place are doing. The South Americans aren’t fretting about their growing dairy cows farting making the climate warmer, to the contrary, they are eyeing our market for dairy and realising that this business is theirs for the taking, and it will make their country richer.
We in NZ are making the wrong decision for all the wrong reasons.
We should be placing a modest tax on polluters in NZ, but not because it might change global warming, but to create a fund that can be spent on exploiting the change in climate to our benefit and to mitigate the negative effects of those changes, such as moving low lying communities. The tax could be minuscule, because it will be years before the fund will need to be drawn on.
This is what is in our nations interests, looking after our future and ensuring that we maintain our export markets and the living standards that those markets provide us. We may be seen as a party pooper by some, but do you really think that the big players will care a toss about a tiny country of 4 million.