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May 6, 2013 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The Hot Topic

So by this stage in history, we’re all pretty sure that climate change is a thing that is happening and it is a thing that we accelerated* and it is a thing that we should probably do something about. ‘We’ being every person that ever farted, used excessive amounts of Lynx in high school, or expressed a fondness for doing anything at any point in their life.

New Zealand in general is pretty attached to the idea that we are “clean and green”. This conviction, though potentially erroneously held, feeds into our national identity as a whole and means that we can assume the role of ‘smug prick’ at international climate summits. With over 70 per cent of our electricity being generated from renewable sources, and our staunch anti-nuclear stance, some would argue that this image is deserved. However, as the Prime Minister learned in an awkward interview with British media, the glean is beginning to wear off. As cows continue to fart, and our addiction to oil is perpetuated, our green image is becoming somewhat browny-black.

New Zealand (depending on what statistics you look at) now places in the top 20 greenhouse-gas emitters per capita in the world. We’re a gassy bunch. As our international image starts to waver, perhaps we need to take a closer look at our climate change policies.

A lot of the climate-change discussion in New Zealand centres around our international obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Basically, we agreed to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2012 and we were actually kind of awesome at that. However, the current Government failed to sign on for the next round of targets ending in 2020, because what else would a clean, green country do? The reason given for this decision was that the Kyoto Protocol is ineffective without the buy-in of all major emitting nations (looking at you, United States and China). Reasons not given for this decision include the reluctance on the part of the National Government to bring agriculture under the Emissions Trading Scheme (rural vote yo), or to upset their buddies in big business by imposing any kind of scheme that could see New Zealand reach its now non-existent goals.

At the time of the 2011 election, the Green policy was to sign onto the next round of the Kyoto Protocol and to convince the US to follow suit. Both National and Labour advocated a “leading role in international negotiations” with no commitment to sign back onto the existing framework. Funny that.

Of course, New Zealand can’t prevent global warming alone, but this is no excuse to give in without a fight. With R&D tax credits and a strategy to shift to 100 per cent renewable generation we can not only reduce our emissions, but also export our technologies, and create green jobs making New Zealand cleaner, greener, richer, and once again a courageous world leader.

If only our politicians were brave enough to agree.


* A notable exception to this consensus being Christopher Monckton, classical-architecture graduate and living example of the necessity of the proletariat’s violent overthrow of the aristocracy.


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