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The climate week that was

By Russel Norman

This was the week we put climate change back on the political agenda.

It seems people were waiting for it.

The strength of feeling that’s emerged – frustration at New Zealand’s slide backwards into inertia over the climate crisis, anger at National’s indifference, excitement that the Greens have tabled a win-win proposal, and a real sense our country can be part of the climate solution rather than remaining part of the problem – has surprised and humbled us.

What we’re proposing is quite simple – a charge on pollution, with all the money going back to families and businesses, so that New Zealand can make the transition to a low carbon economy without households having to pick up the tab (as they’re currently doing under the Government’s failed emissions trading scheme).

Critics of the policy have been limited to those benefiting financially from the current system; in other words, those who’re enjoying being able to pollute as much as they want while taxpayers foot the bill.

And of course the National Government has criticised the Climate Tax Cut- although it’s difficult to know how it’s possible to express any view at all when your head is that deep in sand.

Dominion Post editorial has described Climate Change Minister Tim Groser’s response to the policy as “lazy and arrogant”.

But overall, support for the plan has been overwhelmingly positive. Here is a summary of responses:

Business reporter Pattrick Smellie in the Dom Post describes the tax as a good idea and the Government’s response to it “mildly hysterical”.

Business commentator Bernard Hickey told Marcus Lush on Breakfast that “most people think the ETS has been a failure“, that NZ had “back peddled” on climate action and that a carbon tax would be more efficient than the ETS. Lush described climate change as “a matter of life or death..if you read the scientists“.

The Herald’s business columnist Brian Fallow described it as a way of “shifting the burden form household incomes and business profits and on to polluters”.

Prominent economists Matt Nolan and John Small have shown support.

Farmers Weekly interviewed Green Party candidate and Wairarapa farmer John Hart, then ran with the headline: “Emissions Plan to Reward Good Farmers”

The policy was described as a “masterstroke” on Nine to Noon on Tuesday.

Right wing commentator Matthew Hooton was an early adopter, tweeting on the day of the launch….

David Farrar said on Kiwiblog the policy had credibility and merit.

Political commentator Bryce Edwards said “the Greens have shown us why they’re still amongst the smartest operators in politics”.

Toby Manhire writing in the Herald said the Climate Tax Cut is welcome because it “puts climate change squarely on the agenda for September’s election”.

The Taxpayers Union said the carbon tax is “simpler, more transparent and likely to reduce New Zealand’s overall tax burden“.

Labour, while confirming its preference for an ETS over a tax, told Carbon News that “there is some interest in the idea within Labour’s caucus, from MPs who see the ETS has failing to encourage emission reductions”. Its climate spokesperson David Parker said the Climate Tax Cut was a “well thought-out policy”.

WWF welcomed it.

The Climate Health Council described it as a “specific, fair and realistic plan to curb our greenhouse pollution“.

Forest and Bird said the Green Party is right to be making climate an election issue and to be campaigning for an end to subsidies for major greenhouse gas polluters

Left Wing commentator Martyn Bradbury called it a “brilliant political masterstroke“.

John Armstrong in the Herald said that “In one deft stroke, the policy has the Greens saving the planet, helping the poor, giving big carbon users an incentive to be more efficient, while stimulating investment in more sustainable industries

Gareth Renowden on Hot Topic said: “This a carefully considered and constructed set of coherent policies that should deliver substantial emissions reductions without causing substantial economic dislocation”.

It’s worth adding that in the midst of all this, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment releasedher report into fracking in New Zealand, honing in on climate in her introduction: “The biggest issue [with fracking] is not a local environmental effect, but the global effect of climate change.”

Thank you New Zealand – both your left and right wings –  for being open, bold and positive about meaningful action on climate change.

06/06/2014 – 00:00


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