The need to keep National on board with climate change


Every nine years (the average for the last 30 years)there is a change in Government. With it there is the inevitable change in policy focus, emphasis on what is important, what will become – in the words of former Treasurer and Prime Minister Bill English “nice to haves”. Some fields of policy that needed further progress will stall, whilst other areas of importance will get more focus on them.

In the case of National, there is the sure fire certainty that a new National led Government will have a strong economic focus. Just as we would expect Labour to focus more on social issues and the Greens on the environment, we should know to expect by now that National will have an economic focus whether we like it or not.

One catch is recognizing that an M.M.P. environment requires compromise. In an M.M.P. environment you need allies in Parliament. These are parties that will become potential coalition partners. As such National is unlikely to want to dispense of A.C.T. and therefore there will always be an element of outright denialism in any government that forms. The only way to get rid of it would be to persuade Epsom voters that A.C.T. is a liability.

The same environment that stops fringe parties hijacking the discourse is the same one that is discouraging, with the aid of a lingering “Think Big” hangover, really visionary policy making. New Zealand has shown a real adversity since the late 1980’s to introducing really forward looking policy and the matching steps to make it happen. We need visionary policy with those matching steps if we are going to tackle the environmental monster being unleashed.

This is not to say I support National. I do not. But National is not as far on board with climate policy as people would like to think and this is showing in the announcements being made by its leader Simon Bridges. It is showing in the rhetoric coming from some Members of Parliament like Matt King who believes that the whole thing is a green conspiracy. Farmers who make substantial contributions to the economy through dairy, meat and wool product are largely National supporters. National is not going to come on board without some concessions regarding economic growth, which I believe would probably include slowing down the timetable for phasing out emissions. There will be concessions on transport and/or farming and/or industrial emissions.

But this is not to say that all is lost and that we should give up now. We should not – I have long said that even if one is not entirely convinced about climate change, there are enough other environmental problems being caused by the huge resource consumption that we need to act now.

There are areas though that we can invest in which might help to persuade National Party voters to consider putting before their M.P.’s:

  1. Hybrid vehicles have a future – rather than ban petrol vehicles outright and possibly provoke a resurgence of the far right in New Zealand politics, lets phase out anything over say 15 years old
  2. Introduce a common standard of biofuel for vehicles – the investment and research that would be needed would be a potentially substantial job creation exercise in its own right
  3. Help the building industry explore things like hemp crete, which absorbs carbon
  4. Help airlines such as Air New Zealand research biofuel development – Air New Zealand has already started, but it might need a helping hand
  5. Allow businesses that put solar panels on their buildings to keep any savings in power tax free
  6. Put bulk goods on rail – milk from dairy plants, petroleum and so forth

For New Zealand to address climate change successfully we need National on board. Without National on board, New Zealand’s efforts at addressing climate change will fail.

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