Another Good Herald Editorial

Not quite the same line as was run in yesterday’s Editorial from The Australian but today’s Editorial in the New Zealand Herald also deals with the hard realities of politics now surrounding the climate change policy response

It must be galling to be green these days. Just when an imminent change of government in the United States promises some leadership on climate change, countries like ours are beginning to backslide. The new Government has ordered a review of Labour’s emissions trading scheme and moved to cancel three steps Labour had agreed with the Greens: a moratorium on additional fossil-fuelled power generation, a compulsory biofuels quota and the banning of incandescent light bulbs.

Meanwhile in Australia, where Labor came to power a year ago proclaiming itself a better global citizen than the Howard Government, newly announced carbon emissions reduction targets are a fraction of those expected. It is a striking reversal from the fanfare that attended Kevin Rudd’s trip to Kyoto immediately after his election. His Government’s commitment for the period beyond the term of the Kyoto agreement would cut emissions by only 5 per cent below 2000 levels unless most others agree to much more.

For the moment there is not much prospect of a bolder consensus. Even in Europe, where efforts to meet climate change are farthest advanced, a summit conference in Poland last week made little evident progress towards a post-Kyoto programme. In the current international climate the reason is not hard to fathom. Economic recession has eclipsed all other concerns, particularly costly ones.

All the talk of net economic gains from adjustment to climate change has gone out the window. Warnings such as those in Britain’s Stern report, that failure to adjust would carry crippling economic costs, seemingly have been forgotten. When real job losses loom, environmentalism receives a reality check. Green politics is a luxury of prosperity, which is why developing nations have been reluctant to join emissions reduction pacts and why green political parties are found almost exclusively in rich countries. No matter how left wing their social instincts, they draw almost all their support from relatively well paid academics and liberal professionals in fairly secure jobs.

Greens have been enjoying success in the debate over climate change, marginalising remaining sceptics and convincing most governments that industrial emissions of carbon dioxide have to be contained. The recession now shows how shallow the conviction has been. If most people believed the consequences of climate change to be catastrophic, and believed emissions reductions to be the best response, government would not hesitate to act. Recession would seem a minor temporary risk in comparison.

Even the Labour-led Government in this country postponed emissions trading for the oil industry when petrol prices spiked briefly this year, and it backed off home shower regulations as soon as they caused embarrassment to Labour’s election campaign.

Clearly environmentalists have more work to do to convince governments and the public that climate change exceeds all other threats to their livelihoods and that the supposed solutions are worth the candle. It is hard for most people to believe a mandatory change of light bulbs will do much for the planet.

For the credibility of their cause Greens cannot simply sit out the recession before trying to convince the world again of the urgency of climate change solutions. The solutions invite a contraction of carbon-based industry and a transition to renewable energy sources that would probably cause temporary unemployment on a larger scale than this recession threatens.

If governments are able to soft-pedal on proposed solutions whenever their economies turn sour, the public will be left to wonder whether climate change is really to be taken seriously.

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2 Responses to “Another Good Herald Editorial”

  1. Chris Says:

    Hi. Perhaps you should broaden your research on the current state of global warming worship,as it appears that recent worldwide statistics clearly show that we have all been fed a load of old tat.Our left wing compatriots will have to try yet another approach in their never ending battle with capitalism and the freedom it brings.

  2. adamsmith1922 Says:

    Governments now realise Climate Change does not put food on the table or jobs in the economy.

    Rudd has the advantage of a comptently negotiated Kyoto committment unlike NZ

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