Jul 9, 2008

ETS: Red Light Flashing

The same team who write Trans Tasman have several other weekly publications. The Main Report is possibly the best known. We recommend them all. Today we highlight the latest issue of NZ Energy and Environment Business Weekly.

This week's issue focuses on the Emissions trading Scheme and we think their analysis is spot on. We don't think that the EEBW team will mind us sharing some of their analysis

The Govt’s decision to raise road charges for trucks, the catalyst for massive nationwide protests last Friday, evoked a spontaneous reaction from the public so deep it may have weakened the Govt’s chances of inscribing its flagship climate change legislation over an emissions trading scheme on the statute book before the election. The truckies are angry, the public is angry: all the signals were flashing red not just for the Clark-led administration but for the minor parties still making up their minds whether to vote for the ETS. There are not many protests that can bring cities to a halt, inconvenience tens of thousands of people and still win widespread public support.
What the powerful protest from the trucking industry underlined is climate change has dropped down the list of issues which concern NZers. Instead most of them are worried about the soaring cost of living. They sympathise with the truck-drivers over the rising price of fuel and think the ETS will just add more costs to their household budgets. They look to the Govt to focus on how to hold down the cost of living, rather than add to it. Where in normal circumstances the kind of protest mounted by the trucking industry, blocking already congested roads, would have provoked a public backlash against the perpetrators, bystanders were instead cheering on the big rigs.
The Govt planned to spend the current Parliamentary recess mustering support for its emissions trading legislation. Its primary focus was to win over the wavering NZ First MPs, who were prepared to vote for the ETS providing Cabinet agrees to compensate the elderly for any cost of living rises the ETS would impose on senior citizens. But while the Govt is looking at some technique of lowering electricity costs for low-income households, it might not go far enough. In Aust, policymakers are talking of 50% of ETS revenue being ploughed back into low-income households through tax cuts. But that might not work in NZ because so many low-income households do not pay tax.