Broken English, broken government, broken climate



Bill English’s unguarded statements on climate change demonstrate just how out of touch the National Party leadership really is, and how important it is that they should be forced to face facts.

A couple of weeks ago finance minister Bill English told a public meeting in Kelston what he really thought about climate change. According to a Generation Zero member who took notes, English didn’t bother with the usual lip service to climate action.

He claimed that recent reports “show that the way the world is moving is increasingly towards climate change adaptation rather than mitigation”, and said adaptation policy was “more prudent” than mitigation strategies.
As best as I can recall, National’s approach was described as: “Business as usual for us in terms of climate change policy; the incentive to act will only be determined by the effects on the constituents, i.e adaptation when the time comes.”

It’s difficult to overstate just how stupid English’s statements are. They are the views of a man — a powerful man, a man at the heart of government — who does not understand the first thing about the climate problem, but who is quite happy to pontificate as if he were an expert.

There is no either/or when it comes to mitigation (cutting emissions to prevent future damage) and adaptation. We have to adapt to the changes that are happening now, and that are inevitable for the next half a century, but if we fail to cut emissions at the same time we commit the world — and future generations of New Zealand voters to wholly unnecessary extra damage.

English is either misreading what is really happening in the world — handily summarised by the IPCC and the latest “state of the climate” report — or wilfully misrepresenting it. A charitable observer might allow him his ignorance, and ascribe his comments to self-serving hubris. A cynic might point to the National government’s lip service on climate policy and the environment, and believe that English had let slip what the government really thinks.

English doesn’t bother to pay the usual lip service to doing our bit, or being in the forefront of action — the platitudes that Tim Groser and John Key offer at every opportunity. There’s only the glib certainty that other issues are more pressing, and that climate and the environment should take a back seat to economic growth at all costs.

Even on economic issues, where the finance minister might be expected to know a thing or two, it appears he’s out of touch. A new report by President Obama’s council of economic advisors finds that delaying action to cut emissions increases the cost of climate impacts by 40 percent over ten years.

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The government’s disinterest in climate policy is evidenced by their complete failure to front up to the weekly questions posed by the Climate Voter campaign. With eight weeks to go to the election, the National Party’s polling must be telling them that climate is not an issue that their core support or target voters care about.

That’s a failure of governance and a failure of the political system as a whole. What’s needed is a generation of politicians who are prepared to stand up and confront reality, and provide real leadership on this issue. Only the Green Party shows any systematic understanding of what’s required in the run up to the election. But climate change is not an “environmental problem” or a “pollution problem”, an issue to be shoved into one policy portfolio or another, or relevant only to one party.

It’s not a left wing or a right wing thing; it’s an existential crisis, and we should not be playing party politics with it. If we don’t cut our carbon emissions quickly and steeply, we run the risk of consigning our civilisation — or at the very least, the way of life we have come to enjoy — to a very large and commodious dustbin. Ask the focus groups what they think of that, Bill.

That’s what English doesn’t understand, and that’s why his glib nonsense makes me despair. I know there are sensible people in the National Party. Will they not stand up for the future of New Zealand and the planet? Or are they just another bunch of time-serving politicians climbing a greasy pole erected in the wrong place, at the wrong time, by the wrong people?


  1. A significant proportion of those who signed up as “Climate Change” voters this election will be Green Party voters the next election as they will eventually discover that there is only one party that takes climate change seriously enough to do anything about it and that is the Green Party. National is NEVER going to do anything about climate change EVER. They are like the drowning gold miner or conquistator who refuses to to give up their gold nuggets even when their weight is dragging them to the bottom of the sea.

    • Methinks Bill English just likes to talk out both sides of his mouth at once.

      He is a dreamer for sure.


      He probably wears gumboots to bed.

      Then waiting for the 40 days and nights of rain floods & pestilence.

      Then as his (pet) project he can finally pull his ark out of the farm barn he has ready.

      Lastly to stack it full of all his animals.

      He does think he can walk on water the despot.

      Despot – 01.

      A ruler with absolute power.

      “The word “despot” – applies to rule by a single person, wielding absolute power, and we use it as a term of condemnation.”02.A person who wields power oppressively; a tyrant.

      Time to throw them out come September. Tell everyone.

    • Are the Greens REALLY committed to tackling climate change. Their pronouncements rarely emphasise the urgency that the subject demands. I suspect they’re treading the fine line between what needs to be done and what is possible in our parliament. Except that it’s not a fine line, it’s a yawning chasm. I guess they fear that if they called a spade a phukin shovel they would put too many voters off.
      Whatever…. we don’t have many alternatives to vote for. Internet Party would probably call for even more action but a vote there is a vote wasted unless a helluva lot of young voters pull finger and I’m not sure that the percentage of young people concerned are significantly different from the general population.

      • I guess they fear that if they called a spade a phukin shovel they would put too many voters off.
        You hit the nail on the head, the reason there isn’t a true environmental party in parliament, is because no one would vote for them.
        Instead we have what we have, a party that is so concerned with the environment it wants an inquiry into why NZ has lost so many manufacturing jobs, manufacturing = more CO2?
        It has promoted a savings scheme that is dependent on continued destruction of the environment.
        It encourages population growth, when any thinking person knows 7 billion and growing is unsustainable, and at some time must go into reverse. Taking it to its limits if we don’t stop the planet will be a ball of flesh expanding at the speed of light;)
        The 1080 party is about the most honest group at this coming election.

        • I completely disagree with these 2 above comments because, the Greens have the most comprehensive environmental policies in politics right now and will make a difference to our climate change (to reverse it within 30 years of their policies coming into effect). They are adopting UN policy that is endorsed by their scientists and major international scientific bodies. They are doing it so that ordinary people are not punished (with their climate tax cut). You really need to look at and research up their policies on climate change before making unqualified judgements about them. Their climate tax policy is extremely successful where it’s been tested internationally (much more than an ETS that labour wants to modify even), and there s significant endorsement by international climate change experts on it.
          Mana and Internet parties have endorsed the Greens environmental policies consistently, which is a strong piece of validation too.
          Look too at the range of measures that their Maui dolphin protection laws have in their policy release today. The Greens have a lot of experts in their respective fields including environmental policy and consult majorly with members and outside experts in all their policy development, in processes that take longer than most but are very carefully considered – with for instance the environment, social justice, democracy and peace all mixed in. You only have to look at their policy pages to see the work that’s gone into their policies, and they have much more details on their policies available to the public than other parties (at least when I last checked yesterday).
          Also, all the savings schemes they are supporting are done so with the requirement of ethical concerns (social and environmental).
          The 1080 issue is an interesting one. The Greens do not say they endorse it I understand but they endorse best practice in pest control. And 1080 has been the most effective at present, as for instance it has worked extremely successfully on offshore islands. The Greens have a policy of massive investment in research and development and green research and industry and so continuing to find better ways to replace 1080 is a perfect project that could go under this – researchers etc in my view would only have to propose it to the appropriate body.
          The Greens do have a mainstream image developing on their environment and climate change policies, but this is what it needs to be if we want the country to vote for the climate. Having an obscure image and message like simply banning 1080 (while it is noble and has good intentions) is simply not enough.

          • The Green leadership have been lying to their supporters for well over a decade.

            Firstly there is the matter of Peak Oil, which was touched in briefly by the Greens in the early 2000s, but now that the global peak in extraction is well in the past and the system the economic system is being propped up by increasingly dirty sources of fossil fuels and about to collapse the matter of Peak Oil is completely forgotten about by the Greens, who asked for an inquiry into loss of manufacturing jobs: what a load of bollocks.

            On the matter of climate chaos, we are at more than 120ppm above normal CO2, and going up every year because industrial living requires the use of fossil fuels. Rather than be honest about the situation the Greens pretend we can continue to have the benefits of industrial living while not paying the price, which will be extinction of human life by mid-century, along with extinction of practically all vertebrate life on this planet.

            Save dolphins and whales? Continuation of the industrial system (which is what most people on the Daily Blog want) will result in oceans so acidified nothing but primordial life forms will be able to survive.

            Fortunately the globalised economic system will not last more than another 5 years (might collapse later this year) and we will be rid of all the charlatans in Wellington who misrepresent practically everything on a daily basis.

            ‘You really need to look at and research’

    • What absolute twaddle. Catholics are just as concerned as anyone else about the existential threats confronting humanity. IIRC, their boss cocky has even sounded off about the danger of unregulated capitalism. I suspect it’s been a long time since English listened to a sermon and a lot longer since he went to confession.

    • That’s an oddity that puzzles me… no-one thought to have a recorder running (let alone cameras) in the presence of a politician. Bit like the meeting between Nick Smith and Fish & Game. I bet every single person in that room had at least a cellphone capable of recording the entire discussion. Someone was taking notes so it wasn’t under Chatham House rules, anything said was fair game for chapter & verse repetition later.

      Our lives are under relentless surveillance, the pollies can’t really complain that they can’t fart without it appearing on YouTube.

      • Great question @Kiwiiano.
        It reminds me of way back when the Apple Mac first arrived – prior to that was the IBM/Microsoft PC with a DOS command line interface. Donald Norman, the usability guru, said that the Mac was the only one worthy of critique.
        So bearing that in mind, the Greens position is the only one that bears critique. The others (IMP pending) are so far off it beggars belief.

        Personally, I don’t believe they are – problem is they’ve got a percentage of votes behind them now and they don’t want to lose any of those – they’re turning into pollies the same as everyone else. When they started they claimed that they were policy driven and electoral results were secondary.
        As far as I’m concerned there is only 1 matter of any importance – the preservation of some level of lifestyle for my kids and prospective grandkids.
        What more pressing matters are there?
        I guess they fear that if they called a spade a phukin shovel they would put too many voters off.
        You’re right there – the level of denial is so ingrained – and there’s a big message inferred by politicians not taking it seriously therefore can’t be a serious problem.

        Am I being too hard on the Greens? Probably, but they are the only ones to in any way “get the problem”.

        Within the confines of the parliamentary process I guess they’re doing their best. Watch this and weep –

        It’s going to take something more radical than our current political process to address climate change.

  2. Thankfully New Zealand is guided by the calming hand of people like Bill English and not the loonies that comment on The Daily Blog.

    Climate Change is an international problem that requires an international solution. If New Zealand went to nil emissions tomorrow it wouldn’t change the world one iota. All we would be doing is adding costs to our economy and taking dinner off our citizens tables.

    I’m all for New Zealand doing it’s bit as part of an international solution but any more is simply adding cost to the economy with no benefit.

    • “Real Matthew” – in other words, no one does anything because everyone is waiting for the next person to do something…

      If the human race all behaved like that, we’d still be nesting in caves and picking nits out of each other’s hair, a-la Stanley Kubrick’s opening scene in 2001…

      (Mind you, at least we wouldn’t have f****d up the planet…)

    • In addition, “Real Matthew”, the “Do Nothing” approach you advocate has only one result; Nothing.

      Imagine if New Zealand had followed the approach you advocate over French atomic bomb testing at Mururoa? Or the apartheid regime in South Africa?

      Seems to me you right wingers know how to trade shares but when it comes to more important issues and problems confronting us, you prefer blissful ignorance; a bit of hand-wringing; followed up by doing Absolutely F**k All.

      Sorry. Not good enough.

      • Your comparing apples with oranges when it comes to your examples.

        In those instances New Zealand could take a stand and that stand held for the people of New Zealand. If NZ takes a stand against climate change it doesn’t matter, the climate is still going to change regardless.

        New Zealand emissions are largely irrelevant. What matters is total global emissions. New Zealand needs to be at the negotiating table to help ensure a global response so we reduce total global emissions. That each country takes their fair share of the burden.

        There is no point in taking more than our fair share of the burden only to find other countries are not doing so. Thus we get affected by climate change whilst imposing the cost to our economy of trying to hopelessly reduce emissions. Not a good outcome for the New Zealand citizen.

        P.S My share trading skills are quite limited.

        • Person for person NZ’z emission are enormous, actually and something can only be done by people, one by one

          • Exactly, RAEGUN! Countries are arbitrary divisions that change all the time – GHGs don’t get emitted by “countries” they get emitted by people and what they control.

      • What are you doing to “tackle” climate change?

        Oh nothing, I see, just waiting for the government to do something.

        I see,

    • Don’t let minor things like systemic climate change get in the way of raking in all that money, eh? That seems to sum up the Nats: narrow-minded, grasping and venal. Naturally, middle NZ supports them.

    • And that’s how people get beaten up in malls despite crowds of people – wait for someone else to act first.

    • “not the loonies that comment on The Daily Blog…”

      Said the guy commenting on The Daily Blog. Nice work, buddy.

    • You missed a couple of important components of National policy.

      Vote Team Key for a loot & pollute economy and the ‘trickle down effect’, whereby, if you loot enough from the commons and transfer enough of that wealth to the ultra-rich they will be forced to spend some of it in restaurants and bars and create a few jobs waiting on tables and washing dishes.

  3. Acknowledgement of Climate Change invalidates National’s underlying political philosophy – don’t expect any effective action any time soon.

  4. It wouldn’t matter if English grew a brain and morphed into you Gareth.
    So here I go again ……………………
    @ around 400ppm CO2 AND who knows(?) 600 ppm CO2e with methane, Nitrous Oxide, Water Vapor, and the negative feed back of Global Dimming, we haven’t seen anything yet as far as climate change, in fact as we have locked in extinction we aren’t going to get a chance to see how badly we have fucked the environment, cause we will be very long gone before things start to ‘improve’.
    Adaptation is our only choice. it will take 30 – 40 years to ‘benefit’ from anything we attempt (mitigate) now, which is about 20 years post humans.
    ‘We’ could do a shit load smarter things than say build roads* that is for sure, we could be real smart and invest our hard earned cash and spare time in say garden tools and knowledge, a way smarter investment than say …. Kiwi Saver and the stock markets.
    *The Kapiti Expressway could be useful as a base for a sea wall maybe?
    Hoping a new generation of politicians are going to be any different is pie in the sky thinking, politicians are a byproduct of us, and they are the best we can ‘produce’.
    Greedy selfish people get and deserve greedy selfish leaders – G Carlin.
    And lets not forget the 440 nuclear power plants, that will need a functioning grid for up to 60 years after they have been turned off before they can be fully decommissioned … to cool all the spent fuel rods.
    When is any politician going to grow a backbone and tell the truth about the scam that is Kiwi Saver?
    Ho Hum

  5. Bill English claims “recent reports show the world is moving more to climate adaptation”.

    Clearly he has never read the IPCC report, which says you need both mitigation and adaptation.

    I suspect the reports Bill English reads are actually the opinions of the sceptics masquerading as “reports”. The sort of misleading rubbish you get from The Heartland Institute or Fox News or Christopher Moncton. Some people literally only read quite a narrow section of information, and only give credibility to groups who share their ideological or political views. They live in a bubble. “Under the Dome”.

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