May 3, 2008

But Didn't Business Support Parker's Plan?

More from Fran...

Earlier this week, it appeared that Cullen and Parker had won broad support from business leaders for the emissions trading scheme.

The Government's hand-picked Climate Change Leadership Forum, which is chaired by Stephen Tindall, said the group backed the emissions trading scheme and wanted to make sure all emitting firms faced the cost of carbon at the margin at the outset.

Among other points it suggested was the Government should use any additional net revenue from auctioning carbon credits above its Kyoto commitments to either reduce overall tax levels or invest in quality, cost-effective emissions reduction.

The timing of the forum's statement was clearly designed to offset mounting criticism. It was based on a statement crafted by forum member Peter Neilson - chief executive of the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development - to focus on the common ground among the varying interests.

But the forum's claimed consensus lasted just two days before Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly spat the dummy because he had not been appropriately consulted over 10 key points of policy advice, issued under the names of the 31 forum leaders. O'Reilly telephoned Tindall to warn him that Business NZ would dissociate itself from the group view.

He was particularly concerned Neilson had made the release when, under forum protocols, the group had originally said it would not publish the advice it gave to Government.

O'Reilly's not the only business organisation head upset by the Neilson move. Wellington Chamber of Commerce CEO Charles Finney said he told Neilson he was happy for the paper to be the basis of further discussion but the chamber could not agree to all the points - the most fundamental of which was the proposition that the emissions trading scheme was the best way forward.

Finney also said he never agreed to the 10 points being made public and would have opposed this if asked. The chambers, which prefer a carbon tax, will be issuing their own formal statement next week.

A pity she spelled Finny's name wrong.