Watching last night’s Back Benches special on our ETS, I was somewhat bemused to see a British diplomat (chapter 3 online) effusing over New Zealand’s ETS bravery, rather patronisingly assuring us that we are not alone, and challenging New Zealanders to look a Pakistani flood victim in the eye and tell him we’re not willing to raise petrol prices by a couple of cents to save him. If only it was that simple.
I won’t go into whether it’s appropriate for a British diplomat to be commenting on New Zealand politics on a pub politics TV show. But it’s timely to reflect on the ETS, now that the next stage has been in place for a couple of months and the costs are beginning to bite. The decision to proceed when our major trading partners such as Australia and the US still have nothing comparable in place, remains, in my view, a dubious one, as I noted in this article published in The Spectator last March. While the government was wise to ensure the scheme was a relatively low impact one, it has nevertheless pushed up power and fuel costs for consumers, who will also be bracing themselves for the impact of the upcoming GST increase.
Post election, the Australian position is more uncertain than ever. Both parties appeared to foreshadow little action in this area in this next parliamentary term, although the influence of the Greens may come into play. The major international milestones coming up are the UN meetings in Mexico at the end of this year and South Africa at the end of 2011. It’s highly unlikely that the Mexico meeting will see important agreements on major issues. If the same happens at the 2011 meeting in South Africa, there’s a real possibility that there will be no second Kyoto commitment period. In that event New Zealand politicians will surely think twice about proceeding with further costly stages of their pledge to fight global warming.