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Chris Ford: Getting Climate Change Policy Right

Chris Ford
Chris Ford

Over the weekend, Climate Change Minister Nick Smith told TVNZ's 'Q and A' programme that he thought that the 40 percent carbon emissions reduction target was not achievable and far too expensive. Instead he wants New Zealand to sign onto a lesser target of around 25% by the year 2050.

Greenpeace New Zealand's campaign featuring famous celebrity faces such as actresses Robyn Malcolm, Keisha Castle-Hughes and Cliff Curtis urging us all to 'sign on' for the target has been ramped up as global politicians and environmental officials prepare for the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December which will produce a follow up document to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 (one hopes).

As part of this, our new National Government is in the process of determining our position at this crucial talkfest and Smith has signalled he wants this country to argue for a lower target. One gets the underlying feeling that Smith is merely captive to corporate interests who do not want to change their polluting ways at all when the evidence of climate change havoc continues to come before us week after week.

Just in the past week alone there have been stories centering around the Australian bushfire clean up effort and the difficulties surrounding that, torrential rain and wind storms in Poland and here in New Zealand, forest fires brought on by drought in Spain and mass floods in the Philippines.

We can no longer hold our hands over our eyes, ears and mouths like the monkeys who can see no evil, hear no evil or speak no evil. We must support the most ambitious of climate change targets as if we don't then what future do we have to look forward to? As another Greenpeace campaign spokesperson Lucy Lawless tells us on the ads "there is no Planet B" and she is completely right as if we stuff this one up within the lifetimes of not only ourselves but also those of our children and grandchildren, then we will leave our descendants to live (and die) a miserable death on a planet that will become uninhabitable billions of years before it naturally should.

Smith's argument that New Zealand has plenty of forests which mean that we have been able to offset our carbon emissions since 1990 is bunkum as it defies the facts. One key fact is that we have been engaged in an aggressive policy of de-forestation for at least the last five decades and, furthermore, Smith is contradicting himself as didn't he castigate Labour (and rightly so) for presiding over the biggest increase in carbon emissions that this country has ever seen during this decade alone?

Yes, raising the prices of petrol and electricity is a big concern for me as it will be for every other consumer in this country as a result of possible climate change obligations. However, we need more investment in urban and rural public transport platforms (and fully accessible at that too) meaning that the availability of affordable transport will help offset that problem. As for the issue of higher power prices, I cannot see why a fully nationalised and integrated electricity system cannot seek to develop alternative clean energy sources such as wind, solar and wave to complement our hydro generating capacity while holding power prices down, particularly for the average household consumer (and considering the whopping profits they continue to make at our expense).

Despite these potential pitfalls, living on a stuffed up planet is not an option that any of us should contemplate and that's why the Government should seek to get its climate policy right - albeit, by not surrendering it to being influenced by the forces of the political right.

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