Budget 2022: Robertson must weigh the need to curb state spending against the urge to win popular support

The Ardern Government’s  popularity  appears  to  be  waning, according  to  recent  opinion polls – and  even  news  media  which previously were  unduly friendly  (no doubt influenced by the succour from state subsidies)  are   now  finding   flaws  in  ministerial performance.

A  column in Stuff  by  its  experienced  Kevin  Norquay has skewered  the  Ardern  team’s  propensity to  call  on New Zealanders to “be kind”, “listen to the science”, and boast “we’re so transparent”.

Norquay  likened the  Ardern-Robertson government to a “friend” who would like you to look the other way while it gets on with doing what’s good for its own best interests, such as getting re-elected. Continue reading “Budget 2022: Robertson must weigh the need to curb state spending against the urge to win popular support”

A fair go is assured when govt delivers on carbon reduction – but what about China’s coal burning and Brazil’s forest toppling?

Latest from the Beehive

It sounds very grand  – the International Just Transition Declaration (which readers can check out here.)

Its purpose, aspiring to ensure a fair go for all as governments do what must be done to deal with global warming, is worthy and New Zealand – hurrah – is a proud signatory.

Delivering a fair deal popped up in other announcements at the weekend.

The PM no doubt was aiming to deliver fairness to poor people – for example – when she announced “a suite of improvements to family support from 1 April 2022”, which will increase the incomes of 346,000 families by an average of $20 a week, lifting an estimated 6000 more children out of poverty.

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito Williams was expounding more on being a good neighbour than fairness, perhaps, in a speech to the Tuvalu Climate Action Network happening titled “Am I not your Tuakoi – Neighbour?”

He mentioned the recent announcement by our PM that New Zealand would provide $1.3 billion in climate finance to developing countries, at least 50 per cent of this to be spent in the Pacific — our own closest neighbourhood — and at least 50 per cent on adaptation; a key Pacific priority.

Williams also said:

We are in a climate emergency. The science tells us that if countries do not act now to reduce global emissions, the costs for everyone in the future will be much greater.  No one is immune to the effects of climate change. And as our young Pacific climate change warriors have been chanting – Save the Pacific! You save the world!

Really?

And who’s going to tell China? It’s the most populous nation in the Asia-Pacific region and the world, with about 1.44 billion people, and it seems stubbornly intent on continuing to burn massive amounts of coal regardless of the grim environmental consequences.

Check out this rundown from the New York Times:

“Desperate to meet its electricity needs, China is opening up new coal production exceeding what all of Western Europe mines in a year, at a tremendous cost to the global effort to fight climate change.

“The campaign has unleashed a flurry of activity in China’s coal country. Idled mines are restarting. Cottage-sized yellow backhoes are clearing and widening roads past terraced cornfields. Long columns of bright red freight trucks are converging on the region to haul the extra cargo.

“China’s push will carry a high cost. Burning coal, already the world’s single biggest cause of human-driven climate change, will increase China’s emissions and toxic air pollution. It will endanger the lives of coal miners. And it could impose a long-term cost on the Chinese economy, even while helping short-term growth.”

But beyond the Pacific, we might stumble on a country called Brazil, which is intent on cutting down the Amazon forests inside its boundaries with the same grim determination as China is burning coal.

OpenDemocracy reports:

“It is not just the people of Brazil who will suffer in the face of their government’s smartly coordinated attack on humanity’s future. All of us, across the world, are set to suffer the consequences of the tragedy unfolding before us in the Amazon.”

And –

“If the deforestation of the Amazon continues, we will see more extreme temperatures and forest fires like the ones currently ablaze in Canada, Siberia and the western US. There will be more floods, like those seen in Turkey, China and Germany, and more droughts leading to food and water shortages as in Madagascar and Ethiopia. There will be an increase in unpredictable severe weather events, more species will suffer extinction; inequality will grow as will polarization and conflict. There will be more people displaced by climate change throughout the world. It will all be unavoidable. We will also be faced with another genocide of Indigenous peoples.”

 But hey.

Signing the International Just Transition Declaration should bring us some comfort – shouldn’t it?

Maybe not.  It’s aim (so far as we can see) is to tackle global warming fairly rather than successfully.

Announcing the good news at the weekend, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said New Zealand

“… has joined with a range of other countries and committed to a just transition to a low carbon future.”

He explained that the International Just Transition Declaration, launched at COP26 in Glasgow, acknowledges that countries must respond to the climate crisis in a way that is fair to everyone.

“The global transition to a low carbon future needs to be a fair and equitable transition that leaves no community, no family, and no person behind,” James Shaw said.

We suspect Shaw was huffing and puffing largely as a gesture for domestic consumption:

“The way previous Governments have managed periods of economic change in New Zealand has left too many families and vulnerable communities behind. This time has to be different.”  

And then we learn we are one of just 15 signatories to the declaration, along with EU Commission, UK, USA, Canada, Poland, Spain, Norway, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Belgium.

There are 195 countries in the world today, 193 of them member states of the United Nations and two (the Holy See and the State of Palestine) non-member observer states.

The EU Commission isn’t one of them.

But let’s not deny Shaw his platform for sounding important:

“Our Government has been working to build a low carbon future for Aotearoa New Zealand, where everyone has a secure income that pays enough for them to put a warm roof over their heads and food on the table. We have also established a Just Transition Unit, which was expanded in Budget 2021, and the Future of Work Forum to build resilience in those communities most affected by economic change. This work is supporting communities to plan and manage their transitions in a fair and equitable way. Signing the declaration today builds on this work.”

Shaw portended important decisions that will affect us all (with great fairness):

“The Emissions Reduction Plan we publish next year will set out how we will transition to a low carbon future in a just, inclusive and equitable way. That means transition planning with business, unions, iwi, and affected communities at the table; accessible education and training opportunities; support for working families; and making sure we fully understand the distributional impacts of climate policies on population groups.

“There is no doubt that the transition to a low carbon future is an historic opportunity – the creation of new jobs and opportunities for Kiwi businesses; lower household energy bills; a more sustainable agriculture sector; an enviable global brand; warmer, drier homes; new technologies; cost savings for businesses; and greater resilience in the face of increasing uncertainty.

“Our Government is committed to making sure we that we go about capturing these gains in a way that is fair for everyone,” James Shaw said.

A handful of other countries have made a similar commitment.

But 181 countries haven’t signed the International Just Transition Declaration.

Latest from the Beehive

Counselling support to help 24,000 young people thrive at school

The Government is funding counselling support for around 24,000 of our most vulnerable children and young people, Associate Minister of Education Jan Tinetti says.

More Mental wellbeing supports for Auckland

The Labour Government has announced a new mental wellbeing package for Aucklanders experiencing mental distress to get support when they need it.

90 percent first dose target reached in Auckland

Counties Manukau DHB has reached 90 percent first doses today, meaning all three Auckland DHBs have now crossed the 90 percent threshold for first doses, a key milestone on the path to Auckland opening up.

Incomes lifted for 346,000 families

In a suite of improvements to family support from 1 April 2022 the Government is increasing the incomes of 346,000 families by an average of $20 a week; lifting an estimated 6000 more children out of poverty.

Social Development and Employment

Speech

Am I not your neighbour? – Speech to the Tuvalu Climate Action Network event at COP26

Tēnā koutou katoa, Talofa Tuvalu, Soifua manuia i le paia lasilasi ua aofaga potopoto, and Warm Pacific Greetings to one and all.

NZ commits to a just transition

New Zealand has joined with a range of other countries and committed to a just transition to a low carbon future, the Minister of Climate Change James Shaw announced today.

Overhaul ahead for local authorities and their governance – the big issue should be whether local democracy is enhanced or further eroded

There was an international flavour to two of the new statements from the Beehive and a cosmic flavour to a third, when we checked earlier in the day.  But the most ominous announcement, signalling big changes in the offing very close to home, emerged from the office of Nanaia Mahuta, as Minister of Local Government.

She advised us – or warned us, maybe – she has appointed a team to review our local government arrangements.

She mentioned the evolution of local democracy.

Evolution?  Or further erosion?

One outcome could be a quickening of the pace of change that already has weakened citizens’ right to decide who should govern them and their ability to hold their governors to account for their performance at three-yearly elections.

On the international front, we learned – Continue reading “Overhaul ahead for local authorities and their governance – the big issue should be whether local democracy is enhanced or further eroded”

Back to the future: Ardern govt refashions a 2007 commitment to make the state service carbon-neutral

The   government’s declaration of a  national  emergency  on climate change has  taken  symbolism  in politics  to new  heights. It’s  an art form perfected by Prime  Minister  Jacinda Ardern and  the  bulk  of  New Zealanders, it seems,  like it.

Look   at  how she  kept  New Zealanders  free  of  the  Covid-19  virus (albeit with a  bit of expert help  from  Dr Ashley  Bloomfield).

A  problem  with  rising  house  prices? Send  a  letter  to  the  Reserve  Bank  governor.

Too  many  children suffering   in  poverty?  Increase   benefits:  problem solved.

So  too  with    climate  change:  First  step,  make  the state  sector  carbon-free.

The  public  cheers. Opposition  politicians who dismiss it are rubbished as  carping critics. Continue reading “Back to the future: Ardern govt refashions a 2007 commitment to make the state service carbon-neutral”

Govt has declared its aspirational (but uncosted) decarbonising goals – and the oil giants have their goals, too

The government is wrestling with the goal of decarbonising the economy—at a  cost  nobody  can guess at.   It  says  it wants NZ’s electricity system to  become 100% renewable.

But,  Energy Minister  Megan Woods insists,  “we  won’t  die in a  ditch over the last couple of percent if it places unreasonable costs on households and puts security of supply at risk”.

For those   eager  not to  join  her  in the   ditch  (or anywhere else),  it  would be  reassuring,  given the  government’s performance  other major policies (for  example  KiwiBuild),  to  have a   clearly defined  policy  rather  than aspirational  ministerial  hopes.

Let’s  face  it:  there  will be a   cost,  possibly a  high one,  to decarbonising the  economy.

But will   NZ’s  effort  make any  significant  difference to global warming?  After all,  NZ’s  greenhouse gas emissions  are  just 0.17% of  the  world’s  total ,  compared  with China’s  26%, the US  14%  and the  EU  9%.    Continue reading “Govt has declared its aspirational (but uncosted) decarbonising goals – and the oil giants have their goals, too”