Sunday, June 13, 2010

Michael Barnett: Emissions Trading – Persuade us

On one hand we have a majority of small and medium businesses the Chamber deals with across NZ saying that the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) due to start on the first of July should be withdrawn and replaced with a comprehensive long term strategy to cut emissions in the agriculture and transport sectors – the two areas that account for over 70% of New Zealand’s green house emissions. On the other we have Government launching an information and story telling offensive that, if it is as persuasive as they say it is, should have been told and widely socialised 12 months ago.

The increased energy prices - power up 5% and petrol up 4c/litre – that come with the introduction of the ETS will make no difference to reducing New Zealand’s 0.2% contribution to the world total of green house emissions however the unfairness is that mainstream businesses and New Zealanders will meet the cost of the emitters by way of a disguised tax.

This is because 48% of NZ green house emissions are in agriculture which is outside the scheme and a further 20% is in transport, a sector where New Zealanders don’t yet have affordable options to purchase low energy using vehicles.

It would also seem that the basis of the ETS is counter – productive to our efforts to increase trade and foreign exchange earnings, especially when there could be alternative actions we could be taking – actions that would seem to fit alongside the Pure and Green values we promote alongside the NZ brand.

The design flaws in the current scheme have been widely debated:

• NZ’s contribution to green house emissions is just 0.2% of the world total. This compares with Australia 1.4%, Japan 3.5%, and USA 18% and China 20%.

• 48% of the NZ total is made of emissions from agriculture, which rises to above 50% when the agriculture portion of the 20% that transport contributes is added in.

• That is, without serious action to reduce agriculture emissions and make a major effort in transport by adopting an affordable fleet of low carbon emitting vehicles, there will be little impact on the New Zealand contribution to reduce world emissions.

• The original justification of Government for introducing the ETS was that it would bring New Zealand into line with other countries expected to sign up to plans to reduce emissions at the Copenhagen Summit held earlier this year. However, other countries, especially major trading partners, Australia, United States, Japan and China haven’t signed up.

• Instead, all we are doing is penalising ourselves and undermining the international competitiveness of our exporters.

To get back on track with a meaningful emission reduction scheme, I would suggest we need a comprehensive long-term strategy based on the following principles and design elements:

• At the very least, NZs ETS should be aligned with Australia as far as possible.

• NZ should move in line with trading partners – not kick itself in the shins.

• For any NZ ETS scheme to be a success it must impact significantly on the major emission contributors – i.e. agriculture and transport.

• An adjunct should be a re-energized strategy for forestry planting of similar scale that NZ led the world on in the 1930s.

I strongly believe that if the Government could muster the courage to withdraw the ETS and focus on developing a long-term strategy to develop technology to get emissions cuts in agriculture and transport supported by a co-operative/ collaborative government-business partnership to encourage commercialization of goods and services that reduce emissions, we would win back the respect of the public on this issue and enhance our international reputation as a nation that truly does care about its environment.

It would be a win for tax payers and a win for New Zealand’s global brand.

Michael Barnett is the Chief Executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.


Anonymous said...

You mean a backdown like the anti smacking legislation - Yeah right.

Anonymous said...

Surely this still misses the point - that there has been no warming for the ppast `10 years!
However, it is correct to do all we can to reduce pollution.

Anonymous said...

Agree entirely. I wonder if there is another agenda re where the money - or part of it- will end up.
Just do not understand the Govt. determination to be the first when generally the public disagree.

Anonymous said...

Livestock emmissions are part of a natural cycle in the earths atmosphere.The only way you can increase greenhouse gases from livestock is by increasing the number of animals. NZ presently has eight million less livestock units than we had in 1990 which was supposed to be the base line for Kyoto calculations. In todays world criminals seem to have more rights than their victims and typical of this farm animals are beinging made the scapegoat by our government for fossil fuel which has to be the real villain if there actually is such a thing.

Anonymous said...

The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland pumped more carbon into the world's atmosphere than NZ could do probably in many decades. It is useless for us humans, especially here in this small country, to compete with nature in any way!

Anonymous said...

I am sick and tired of people blaming agriculture for NZ emissions .
The truth is that all farm production whether it is an arable crop ( just like trees and vines) livestock and soils ) sequester carbon. The CO2 is released when any of these things are consumed or destroyed.
Stock no's in New Zealand have almost halved since 1990 and there has been a huge reduction in the land areas farmed. On top of this there has been a lot of conservation planting of trees and land retirement that is unrecognised by the ETS legislation.Further there is no technology available to measure on farm emissions today
It would be wonderful if the real polluters would stand up
Rose C Evans

Anonymous said...

Lets get this right. The problem is supposed to be the INCREASED greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Mankind has increased his use of fossil fuels to the point where we are burning 1.5 million litres per minute. Livestock emmit methane which has remained stable in the atmosphere for the last 30yrs even though global meat and dairy products have doubled.The number of livestock units in NZ has also reduced by eight million since 1990 and you see LIVESTOCK as being the problem.