May 20, 2008

John Armstrong On The ETS

John Armstrong, in today's NZ Herald, analyses the politics around the National position on the ETS. We agree with pretty much every word.

That decision could not have been too difficult to reach. Sure, in doing so, National has surrendered some of the moral high ground to Labour - and Labour is already slamming the decision as further evidence National is not really serious about tackling climate change.
But as Labour quickly discovered when the scheme's impact on the economy and households was spelled out in submissions to the finance and expenditure committee, the high ground can suddenly become a very lonely place.
So lonely that Labour buckled under the pressure and delayed the introduction of emissions trading for the transport sector.
It is thus a bit rich for Labour to castigate National for costing the country "hundreds of millions" of dollars in Kyoto protocol liabilities, when it too is postponing the day of reckoning.


It is also a bit rich for Labour to criticise National for not coming to the party when National made it pretty clear in 2005 prior to the system's development that it was open to talks with Labour about reaching a political consensus that would see the design of a lasting emissions trading system that was politically resilient enough to survive changes of Government.

And it concludes

Labour should have grabbed National's offer with open hands. Talks with National might subsequently have broken down, but Labour could have said it tried.
Instead, Labour pushed on alone. Having run into trouble with its allies, Labour then tried to embarrass National into voting to save the legislation.
National would have weighed up playing the role of saviour versus leaving Labour to squirm. However, deep in election year, the politics are paramount. It is not in National's short-term interest to help Labour out. The political atmosphere is too charged for the two parties to sit down and produce a law which will last.
But the basic reason for National's opposition was that it was not willing to support rushed legislation it would have to fix if it wins power. Better to go back to the drawing board.
It also makes sense to wait for the Rudd Government across the Tasman to develop its emissions trading model to see if New Zealand's system can be aligned with Australia.
Those demanding swift action on climate change will be horrified by yet further delay.