GUEST BLOG: Pat O’Dea – The Opportunities Party Climate Change Policy

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The Opportunities Party, (TOP), have held a Launch for the release of their Climate Change Policy in Dunedin South.

You can watch the policy release launch HERE

There are three main takeaways from the TOP Climate Change Policy revealed in the launch.

They are:

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1: TOP want to rehabilitate the ETS

2: TOP want 2050 as the target date for New Zealand to become carbon neutral

3: TOP want to install programs for climate change remediation and adaptation, starting in South Dunedin, which is the most immediately threatened area by sea level rise related to climate change.

The following is an opinion piece of what I think should be included in any progressive climate change policy:

New Zealand’s total Greenhouse gas emissions (from all sources) amount to 0.2% of the world total.

Writing on the government website, Professor Gluckman says, that because of this above fact, New Zealand’s greatest contribution to fighting climate change will be by setting an example.

”New Zealand is a small emitter by world standards – only emitting some 0.2% of global greenhouse gases. So anything we do as a nation will in itself have little impact on the climate – our impact will be symbolic, moral and political.”

Sir Peter Gluckman
Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor

To me, what Professor Gluckman’s statement means, is that any policy program by a New Zealand political party that wants to make a meaningful contribution to the global fight against climate change, must include at least one iconic action against climate change that the world will sit up and take notice of.

When considering what iconic actions to take: There are 3 actions that come to my mind that our political leaders can take right now that would make the world take notice that this country takes climate change seriously, (And, that they should too).

They are:

1: The repudiation of all existing and proposed deep sea oil drilling and exploration contracts and operations in New Zealand’s greater economic zone, and all other marine territories under New Zealand’s jurisdiction. These contracts must be torn up under grounds of national and international emergency.

2: A complete and total, and immediate, imposition of a ‘moratorium’ on all Fracking operations  on environmental grounds. With the option of making this moratorium permanent, incumbent on the oil companies presenting, (or not) evidence that Fracking, (and other similar extreme unconventional forms of fossil fuel extraction) do not overly contribute to climate change, over conventional forms of fossil fuel extraction.

3: Immediate steps to wind down the New Zealand coal industry.

In recognition of the fact that globally coal is the number 1 most dangerous and damaging of all the fossil fuels to the climate and the environment.

3:a A permanent ban on all import and export of coal across our borders.

3:b A permanent ban on all new coal mines, and a winding down of existing coal mines.
(In line with this wind down it be incumbent on the government and the coal industry to provide for a just transition of the coal miners to jobs that don’t fry the planet.)

These 3 iconic actions must be part of any serious climate change strategy for any political party that wants to be taken seriously by the voting public, as wanting to take meaningful action on climate change.

I maintain that there is a constituency out there that is receptive to this message.

In 2007 a TV3 News poll indicated that 81% of New Zealanders believed climate change was real, and 55% of New Zealanders want the government to do more on climate change. These are serious numbers. They are greater numbers than the current levels of support held by the two biggest opposition parties, (combined).

If the TOP party (or any other party), can tap into this constituency, with bold and iconic climate policies, there can be little doubt that they could make serious electoral gains.

 

Disclosure: Pat O’Dea is the Mana Movement Spokesperson for Climate Change Issues.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hi D B
    Your actions 1 2 3 address only the question of where oil and coal are to be sourced from. They say absolutely nothing about reducing emissions.
    I suggest you apply your thoughts to how we can do with less combustion of oil and coal ourselves if we are to set an example.
    Cheers D J S

    • Hi David Stone I have been hearing varios versions this argument from supporters of the fossil fuel extractive industries for years now.

      This argument can be summed up thus, “We will keep digging up fossil fuels as long as people keep burning it.”

      This circular self serving argument ignores the obvious fact that all coal dug up will eventually be burned somewhere. But all coal left in the ground won’t be.

      I think George Monbiot answers your fallacious argument Dave, way better, and probably more caustically than I.

      Keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop climate change

      George Monbiot

      If you visit the website of the UN body that oversees the world’s climate negotiations, you will find dozens of pictures, taken across 20 years, of people clapping. These photos should be of interest to anthropologists and psychologists. For they show hundreds of intelligent, educated, well-paid and elegantly-dressed people wasting their lives.
      The celebratory nature of the images testifies to the world of make-believe these people inhabit. They are surrounded by objectives, principles, commitments, instruments and protocols, which create a reassuring phantasm of progress while the ship on which they travel slowly founders. Leafing through these photos, I imagine I can almost hear what the delegates are saying through their expensive dentistry. “Darling you’ve re-arranged the deckchairs beautifully. It’s a breakthrough! We’ll have to invent a mechanism for holding them in place, as the deck has developed a bit of a tilt, but we’ll do that at the next conference.”

      This process is futile because they have addressed the problem only from one end, and it happens to be the wrong end. They have sought to prevent climate breakdown by limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that are released; in other words, by constraining the consumption of fossil fuels. But, throughout the 23 years since the world’s governments decided to begin this process, the delegates have uttered not one coherent word about constraining production.

      Compare this to any other treaty-making process. Imagine, for example, that the Biological Weapons Convention made no attempt to restrain the production or possession of weaponised smallpox and anthrax, but only to prohibit their use. How effective do you reckon it would be? (You don’t have to guess: look at the US gun laws, which prohibit the lethal use of guns but not their sale and carriage. You can see the results on the news every week.) Imagine trying to protect elephants and rhinos only by banning the purchase of their tusks and horns, without limiting killing, export or sale. Imagine trying to bring slavery to an end not by stopping the transatlantic trade, but by seeking only to discourage people from buying slaves once they had arrived in the Americas. If you want to discourage a harmful trade, you must address it at both ends: production and consumption. Of the two, production is the most important.

      The extraction of fossil fuels is a hard fact. The rules governments have developed to prevent their use are weak, inconsistent and negotiable. In other words, when coal, oil and gas are produced, they will be used. Continued production will overwhelm attempts to restrict consumption. Even if efforts to restrict consumption temporarily succeed, they are likely to be self-defeating. A reduction in demand when supply is unconstrained lowers the price, favouring carbon-intensive industry.*

      *(My emphasis)

      But yes, you read that right David, lowering consumption drives down the price of fossil fuels, making them more competitive and attractive and cheaper than renewables. I recommend you read the whole article contained in the link.

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/10/keep-fossil-fuels-in-the-ground-to-stop-climate-change

      Once fossil fuels are dug up, rules around their consumption are negotiable, and they will be burnt.

      Fossil fuels not dug up are non-negotiable, they can’t be burnt.

      To dig it up, and then claim that we shouldn’t burn it, is hypocritical.

      • Pat, to be fair to David, I don’t think he was disagreeing with your proposals, but rather asking for another set. He is correct that if we stop all fossil fuel mining in Aotearoa, but continue to consume fossil fuels at the same levels, all we will have achieved is increasing our imports. I agree with you and Monbiot that we need to move rapidly to stop mining fossil fuels, but we also need strategies to reduce emissions at the consumption end. Unless you propose to leave it to “the free market” to sort it out, assuming that the price increase resulting from constraining supply and adding import costs will automatically lead to reduced consumption (without massively increasing inequity), which I doubt you do.

        • In my opinion the TOP climate policy is a conservative one that doesn’t offer anything particularly new or substantially different to the demand side approach by governments and politicians that Monbiot is so critical of. Nor is there any mention of opposing deep sea oil or new coal mine operations, or fracking. But coming as it does, from a centrist, business, entrepreneurial based party. This should be no surprise to most.

          But to me the most disappointing part of the TOP climate policy is their avowed determination to revive the Emissions Trading Scheme. The ETS is New Zealand’s version of the globally discredited market mechanism of emissions trading, Which in this country failed miserably in curbing emissions even before it began trading in junk East European carbon credits.

          The Green Party on the other hand need to be recommended for their call parliament to completely scrap the ETS.

          However the TOP do need to be commended for their climate change policy launch.

          The fact that the TOP Party actually has had a climate change policy launch, was and is a progressive move. No other parliamentary party has done this so far. This includes the Green Party who had their policy launch for their “Swimmable Rivers” electoral campaign, but so far not one for the climate

          Nor, so far, has any other parliamentary party.

          Kudos go to the TOP Party for getting in first on this one.

          That the TOP Party held its Climate Change policy launch in South Dunedin is also commendable. Hi-lighting the fact that South Dunedin is ground zero for sea level rise related to climate change in this country. A fact that the current government has failed to properly address.

          That the TOP Party are advocating for a program for planning for sea level rise in South Dunedin. And in the rest of New Zealand as well, is hard headed and realistic, and based in the real world. And what I would expect from a business connected party. This stand by the TOP Party is significant, coming at a time when most other parliamentary parties, in particular the National Party in Government, have ignored this looming reality.

          https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/academic-warns-sea-threat

      • Hi Pat
        I’m not an apologist for the fossil fuel industry.
        To address reduction of the use urgently needs prioritising it in every decision that government at all levels make. Without their constant use our society structure ,cities , would be unrecognisable.
        The attention reduction is being given, the acceptance of how our lives all have to change is non-existent. Monbiot”s first sarcasm is perfectly founded, but just cutting off supply of what is the lifeblood of modern society’s structure is an unsatisfactory response. We need a plan to live without it. We won’t all be able to live in citys anymore.
        The adjustments needed are way beyond anything being talked about, and way beyond what any elected government is likely to attempt.
        Cheers David

        • Bruh, for every barrel of oil extracted there is 20,000 paper contracts owing on it. And all that leverage isn’t passed on to consumers right away, it is picked up by the tax payer.

          So we dont just pay for energy at the pumps we pay for energy every time we buy something GST included which is everything exept a few modes of tax and liability evasion. With out government subsidies the oil industry would collapse in an instance.

          • “With out government subsidies the oil industry would collapse in an instance.”

            Maybe, but as David is saying, overnight collapse of supply wouldn’t be a good thing. Think about everything you do every day that currently relies on fossil fuels, from the fuel in your car or bus to the food on supermarket shelves. We need to reduce our fossil fuel dependence as a society (not just as isolated individuals), at the same time as we reduce supply. We have a hugely ambitious transition ahead of us, and David is right to be concerned that not even the Greens are really talking about how radically almost every part of our political-economic system needs to change.

        • First of all David I agree that the adjustments needed are way beyond anything being talked about.

          But is it really way beyond what any elected government is likely to attempt?

          And when you say, ‘not likely’ I infer you mean, in the Kiwi way of understatement, not at all.

          I could be wrong in thinking that you mean, ‘not at all’, but instead mean, it is not likely, but it is possible.

          If it is possible, then we should fight for it!

          If we are convinced of the serious threat to humanity and the planet posed by climate change then we must fight for the possibility that an elected government would ban extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction like fracking and deep sea oil drilling and opening new coal mines, etc.

          Because the three points I put up, are the sort of things that our elected government must attempt, if we are ever to seriously try and give a lead in preventing or stemming the worst that global climate change resulting from the burning of fossil fuels will unleash on our children.

          And only an elected government can attempt these things. Because to really act on climate change requires the building of a popular mandate. Which leads me back to our first point of agreement, that these things are not being talked about.

          But they should be.

          And that they are not, is in my opinion where the TOP party climate policy, falls down.

          Because unfortunately the physics of climate change dictate what are the minimum actions necessary to avert the most catastrophic outcomes. And globally recognised scientists have told us what they are. 1/ The end of coal. 2/ The end of unconventional fossil fuels. (ie fracking, deep sea oil, shale oil, tar sands, etc. and of course their replacement with renewables. The replacement of unconventional fossil fuels, and coal, with renewables, will not happen until these fossil fuels are removed from the market.

          Whether it politically expedient or not to discuss these things. Or even whether any elected government take them up, or not. If we are serious about combating climate change we need to start this conversation now.

          Over to you…

  2. “Conservative environmentalists push “free enterprise” approaches, like carbon tax, instead of regulations”

    From Scientific American:

    Conservative environmental advocates promote what they call “free enterprise” solutions to climate change, like a carbon tax.

    That stands in contrast to the approach of liberal environmentalists under former President Barack Obama, who backed bans on certain kinds of oil drilling and regulations aimed at discouraging petroleum use.

    But whatever their differences, the conservative groups say they have an important role to play.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/green-republicans-confront-climate-change-denial/

    And I agree, conservatives do have an important role to play. I would even go further and say that without the support of conservatives the battle against climate change cannot be won.

    But I would add a rider: It is my opinion that conservative politicians need to support at least one iconic supply side policy to be taken seriously as wanting to act on climate change.

    In the US, conservative Republican climate change politicians need to come out against the XL pipeline.

    In NZ, the TOP party and other conservative politicians need to come out against Deep Sea Oil drilling.

  3. At the recent Oil Industry Conference in New Plymouth, Judith Collins, the Minister for Energy, announced two large new areas to be opened up by the government for oil exploration and development.

    New areas of exploration opened up

    Meanwhile, the government has added two new areas to the search for oil and gas in New Zealand.
    An existing area for petroleum exploration has been pushed closer to the coast line off Hawke’s Bay, while the other area, in Southland, included land from the coast up to the Fiordland lakes.
    Along with the two new areas, six others that were on the agenda last year were also being offered.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/327171/protesters-dragged-away-from-entrance-of-energy-conference

    Echoing George Monbiot’s words on the effects of falling demand on the price of fossil fuels Collins said this:

    Announcing the offer at the conference, the Minister of Energy and Resources Judith Collins said the price of oil had trended down in recent years but she was hoping for a recovery in a “highly resilient industry”.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/327171/protesters-dragged-away-from-entrance-of-energy-conference

    Speaking of the climate change protesters, a government GNS scientist who was also an attendee at the Oil Industry Conference, used a similar demand side argument, to that espoused here by David Stone, to excuse this huge proposed increase in fossil fuel production.

    While most delegates refused to talk to media, Christopher Hollis – the principal scientist paleontology at GNS science – said many delegates shared the protesters’ concerns and were looking for solutions.
    “Emissions are the problem, right? People use oil and gas very efficiently and many of us here are working hard to find ways (to use it) that don’t damage the planet.
    “So we’re all on the same side really.”

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/327171/protesters-dragged-away-from-entrance-of-energy-conference

    Really?

    While GNS scientist Christopher Hollis takes David Stone’s argument one step further, to hint at mythical non-existent technologies to keep emissions down. All of these demand side solutions, whether real (like the ETS) or imagined, (like ‘Clean Coal’) have one thing in common, the continued use and expansion of fossil fuel use. ie. BAU

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