As if it weren’t bad enough that citizens generally have to deal with most of the negative consequences of climate change, the current government wants us to pay twice for the outputs of big businesses. The current proposal on an ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) for New Zealand basically puts a limit on the price of carbon that certain businesses will have to pay. The rest of the bill (if prices fluctuate too much) is going to be footed by taxpayers through the government. Effectively, this lets key polluters carry on with business as usual and provides no incentive (in fact, subsidising carbon emissions is really an “anti-incentive”) to develop innovative ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Jeanette Fitzsimons put out a press release denouncing the plan, stating: “It would be easier and cheaper if the National Party just wrote some big cheques and handed them to our largest foreign-owned companies.”
To give an analogy, imagine you’re a kid called Sally. You share a room with your brother Bill. Bill is a messy kid, and despite efforts to try and keep your room tidy, Bill can and will, in a matter of minutes, destroy any efforts for cleanliness. You love him dearly, of course, and you rely on his humour for sustanence in the presence of your conservative parents. But truly, your room is not a pretty sight. It’s not just you being nitpicky and fussy – his untidiness is beginning to affect your life, because every time you need to head out, you need to spend twice as much time looking for clothes, and the moulding pizza under his bed probably isn’t doing you any good in the health department. Finally, you decide to ask your parents to lay some smack down. Not literally, of course. They decide that for every unit of mess Bill creates, he has to pay twenty cents. However, since he spends all his money on lollies at the dairy, if he can’t pay the bill, that’s ok, your parents will take the money out of your allowance. Unfortunately, this analogy isn’t just something the average New Zealander will be able to ignore as some nightmare-ish situation from a bygone era – this may be happening very soon, on a very significant scale.
The government is willing to fund the excesses of polluting industries, presumably funded from the savings it is making from cuts to funding elsewhere – including schemes that can improve the lives of every day citizens (check the post regarding the slashing of night classes funding). Strange priorities.
What makes this idea even harder to swallow is that while price caps on things like basic freakin necessities like food in developing countries would be considered unholy interventions on the operation of the “free market,” we’re allowed to put price caps on carbon (not just to protect only our own industries, either). Regardless of whether or not you think increased carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gasses contribute to climate change, it’s pretty obvious that the only ones benefiting from price caps on carbon are the shareholders of the companies such a policy would apply to (that is, already relatively wealthy or lucky individuals). This seems to be, nay, is, a recurring theme with National, who recently also upped funding to private schools by 75%.