Nick Smith – If you act like a Joker, expect to be treated as a joke

Nick Smith

13 November, 2009

Guardian criticism a reality check on climate change policy

Criticism in today’s Guardian is a reminder of the risk to New Zealand of not taking climate change seriously and ensuring our actions match our words, Minister for Climate Change Issues Nick Smith says.


“The climate change policy the Government inherited from Labour was not credible,” Dr Smith said. “The rhetoric of New Zealand being a world leader on climate change has been at odds with a trebling in coal-generated electricity, record felling of trees, and large increases in our gross emissions over the past decade.


“We have had to give New Zealand’s climate change policy a reality check. We are not claiming New Zealand can be a world leader in emissions cuts or the first carbon-neutral country in the world. Our policy is for New Zealand to do its fair share and this will be challenging given our unique emission profile dominated by agriculture.


“We are about less talk and more action. That is why we’ve advanced policies to insulate 180,000 homes, encouraged solar water heating, funded bio-fuel development, exempted electric cars from road user charges and facilitated renewable energy projects.


“New Zealand does need to get on and implement an emissions trading scheme that encourages energy efficiency and afforestation. The debate on an ETS has raged for more than a decade and we need to make a start. That is why the Government is determined to pass its legislation by Christmas and introduce a carbon price on 1 July 2010.


“It is unfortunate the Guardian was not fully informed of New Zealand’s position. I will be providing information to the Guardian to ensure the full facts are known. For example, I will be clarifying that New Zealand is on track to meet its Kyoto commitments as a result of tree planting in the 1990s. I hope the Guardian will update the information in the on-line column.


“However, the broad message of New Zealand having to be careful that our actions must match our words needs to be heard.”

HERE’S WHAT GOT UNDER HIS SKIN….

As the world prepares for the Copenhagen climate negotiations next month, it is worth checking out the greenwash that has followed the promises made 12 years ago when the Kyoto protocol was signed.

A surprising number of countries have succeeded in raising their emissions from 1990 levels despite signing up to reduce them. They include a bundle of countries in the European Union, which collectively agreed to let some nations increase their emissions while others (mainly Britain and Germany) cut theirs. Step forward Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece — all with emissions up by more than a quarter.

Then there are the US and Australia, which both reneged on the protocol after signing it. And Canada, which never reneged but still has emissions up by a quarter (worse than the US) and shows no sign of contrition or of being called to account by the other signatories.

But my prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community goes to New Zealand, a country that sells itself round the world as “clean and green”.

New Zealand secured a generous Kyoto target, which simply required it not to increase its emissions between 1990 and 2010. But the latest UN statistics show its emissions of greenhouse gases up by 22%, or a whopping 39% if you look at emissions from fuel burning alone.

Some countries with big emissions growth started from a low figure in 1990. Arguably, they were playing catchup. There is no such excuse for New Zealand. Its emissions started high and went higher.

They are today 60% higher than those of Britain, per head of population. Among industrialised nations, they are only exceeded by Canada, the US, Australia and Luxembourg. In recent years a lot of Brits have headed for Christchurch and Wellington in the hope of a green life in a country where they filmed the Lord of the Rings. But it’s a green mirage.

To rub our noses in it, last year New Zealand signed up to the UN’s Climate Neutral Network, a list of nations that are “laying out strategies to become carbon neutral“.

But if you read the small print of what New Zealand has actually promised, it is a measly 50% in emissions by 2050 – something even the US can trump.

Where do all these emissions come from? New Zealand turns out to be mining ever more filthy brown coal to burn in its power stations. It has the world’s third highest rate of car ownership. And, with more cows than people, the country’s increasingly intensive agricultural sector is responsible for approaching half the greenhouse gas emissions.

You might expect the UN Environment Programme to throw New Zealand off its list of countries supposedly pledged to head for climate neutrality. Sadly no. These steely guardians of the environment meekly say that the network “will not be policed… nor will UNEP verify claims“.

Indeed, it seems to go to great lengths to deny reality. Check the UNEP website and you will find an excruciating hagiography about a “climate neutral journey to Middle Earth“, in which everything from the local wines to air conditioning and Air New Zealand get the greenwash treatment.

After extolling the country’s green credentials, it asks: “Have you landed in a dreamland?” Well, UNEP’s reporter certainly has. He cheers New Zealand’s “global leadership in tackling climate change“, when the country’s minister in charge of climate negotiations, Tim Groser, has been busy reassuring his compatriots that “we would not try to be ‘leaders’ in climate change.”

This is not just political spin. It is also commercial greenwash. New Zealand trades on its greenness to promote its two big industries: tourism and dairy exports. Groser says his country’s access to American markets for its produce is based on its positive environmental image. The government’s national marketing strategy is underpinned by a survey showing that tourism would be reduced by 68% if the country lost its prized “clean, green image”, and even international purchases of its dairy products could halve.

The trouble is, on the climate change front at least, that green image increasingly defies reality.

SHAME ON YOU, NICK SMITH. AND IF YOU’RE DOING IT BECAUSE OF YOUR PEER GROUP, HAVE A WEE THINK ABOUT DOGS AND FLEAS. RHYMES WITH SLEAZE.

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One Response

  1. Clearly Mr Smith/National govt are feeling a little insecure on this subject, otherwise they would’nt feel the need to respond by issusing a press release on it and Blogging their own Greenwash onto the Guardian article… and rightly so they should feel insecure, their policy response to the Environment, Climate change and Peak Oil is simply reckless beyond belief!

    If nothing else, the Guardian’s article must serve as a wake call… they are judged for what they do, not what they say.

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