Radio NZ is reporting that climate change warriors have low expectations the budget will deliver what is needed. Climate lobby groups say that while the need for action to lower emissions and tackle climate change has never been greater, they doubt the government will step up.
It is being pitched as a Covid-19 recovery budget, as the world starts to emerge from 16 months focussed on battling the virus.
Radio NZ quoted Victoria University climate scientist James Renwick as saying the window for climate action was closing fast.
“Forget 10 years to sort emissions it’s really only 18 months. It’s this period last year and this year where governments are making investments, we’ve got to get that right – the pressure is on.”
Greenpeace climate change campaigner Amanda Larsson said the government needed to stump up serious money to help farmers cut emissions.
“We at Greenpeace have called for a $1bn investment, which would include things like building necessary infrastructure, for example: new plant-based food factories and compost facilities.
“But also providing grant funding for farmers to take up regenerative techniques, for example: agroforestry.”
Larsson said the cost of borrowing has never been lower, the government has a huge parliamentary majority and political mandate – now’s the time for action.
Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said he wanted to see pest control massively ramped up.
“Not only because we have forests that are collapsing and so many species on the verge of extinction, but also because our native forests play such a huge role in storing carbon”.
As Point of Order sees it, these lobby groups are ignoring what may be of more immediate concern to most NZ households than the climate change outlook, and that is the impact of soaring energy prices.
John Carnegie, CEO of Energy Resources Aotearoa (formerly the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association) wrote in the NZ Herald this week it is a grim time for businesses and households impacted by soaring energy prices.
“Many companies are suffering and cutting production back. If it continues there will undoubtedly be job losses and higher electricity bills. The problem is caused by shortages of water in the hydro lakes that generate electricity and of natural gas which is used directly by industries and as a back-up source of electricity”.
Here’s the bit that should worry the climate change warriors:
“ In the short term it means that large amounts of coal are literally keeping the lights on with twice the emissions of natural gas”.
According to energy analyst John Kidd, NZ is on track to import 2m tonnes of coal this year.
The carbon footprint of that entire supply is said to be “horrific”.
Carnegie says it’s a double whammy for export industries that use natural gas to create products like methanol, steel, dairy, meat and paper.
So if Finance Minister Grant Robertson intends his budget to speed up the economic recovery from the effect of the Covid pandemic, how can he impose climate change measures that would further damage those key export industries?
In fact he may secretly be regretting the short-sighted decision of his government earlier in its life to block further exploration of NZ’s gas resources (though he could not foresee the problems that have limited the output from existing gasfields).
The dilemma now pinning him to the wall is: to satisfy the climate change warriors in driving down production from NZ farms and industries to cut carbon emissions means he is opting for a sharp fall in living standards.
Carnegie doesn’t spare the rod:
“How can our major industries have the confidence to innovate and invest in their future, when there is such uncertainty over energy supply?”
Solving the climate problem by banning things may be easy, but ensuring an adequate affordable energy supply for businesses and homes when they need it is much harder.
It is ironic, too, when the first Labour government did so much to expand NZ’s hydroelectric network in order to create higher living standards that this Labour government could be instrumental in lowering living standards.
The fruits of Robertson’s measures to strengthen the economic recovery may never be harvested if wholesale electricity prices go through the roof.