Thursday 3 December 2009

Blame Canada

New Zealand's emissions trading scheme will only impose a cost on Kiwi taxpayers if we choose to let it do so.

John Key has exempted agriculture and a few others from the emissions trading regime for the next few years; most folks reckon that this then means the taxpayer is on the hook for any aggregate carbon liabilities under Kyoto.

But who says we have to pay? Just look at Canada:
Until now I believed that the nation which has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.

In 2006 the new Canadian government announced that it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%(1).

It’s now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto Protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation(2). Never mind special measures; it won’t accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.
So sayeth George Monbiot.

So, what happens if Key just stands up at Copenhagen and says:
Hey, folks, we're doing our share here. We've just implemented an emissions trading regime but it'll take us some time to get it all up and running. And know what? In the meantime, we don't see any point in paying the folks who managed to get the rights to carbon credits from decommissioned old Soviet factories. It's not like they'll start running those plants again in the absence of our paying them not to. So, for now we've got a domestic trading system that we're working to coordinate with the Australians if they decide to have a carbon trading system.

So, we're cutting emissions in a few sectors with a trading regime that'll eventually expand to cover the whole country. And once it does, then we'll start thinking about whether it makes sense to buy credits internationally. In the meantime, we're not going to be giving the finger to Kyoto the way those horrible Canadians have. We're trying, and we'll get there, so don't start boycotting tourist visits or anything crazy like that. And it's not like most of the rest of you have gotten any farther than we have anyway. Heck, we're even researching ways to make our cows and sheep fart less. We just don't see much point in paying this sin tax right now. Thanks very much.
What's the big downside that I'm missing?

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