NZ, Australia sleepwalk to climate suicide

By Ian Wishart

New Zealand and Australia have gone against the world trend by promising to beef up their emissions trading schemes at a bilateral meeting in Durban.

Both nations have taken a drubbing in the media, with recent figures showing New Zealand’s artificial price of $25 a tonne for carbon in the face of world prices around $11, was allowing oil companies and other major corporates to make a financial killing in the carbon credits market at the expense of taxpayers and motorists.

Australia’s scheme narrowly passed into law this year but promises to become the defining election issue, as countries like Britain and Canada begin to back away from the hugely expensive climate promises of the Kyoto Protocol.

Australian Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, and New Zealand Minister for International Climate Change Negotiations, Tim Groser, are nonetheless “welcoming” progress on plans to link Australia’s and New Zealand’s emissions trading schemes.

The Ministers agreed that strengthening international carbon markets – including through linking the two emissions trading schemes – would unlock further efficiencies, and contribute to reducing pollution cost-effectively around the globe.

“Markets are the way to cut our emissions at least cost. That is why Australia is working with New Zealand to develop them domestically and internationally,” Mr Combet said.

The Ministers noted that emissions trading schemes are being introduced around the world, in parallel with the ongoing development of multilateral requirements, and discussions between countries with existing emissions trading schemes were valuable in promoting deeper, more liquid carbon markets.

“The broader, deeper, and more liquid carbon markets are, the more effectively they work, for the benefit of all countries,” Mr Groser said.

Despite that, with carbon prices at rock-bottom the two antipodean nations look set to become leaders in generating hot-air, rather than reducing it.

Today’s announcement followed a meeting in June between Prime Ministers Gillard and Key where they agreed to establish a senior officials group to work on arrangements to link the two countries’ emissions trading schemes. The Australia New Zealand Carbon Pricing Officials Group (CPOG) was then established to take that work forward. Ministers Combet and Groser have agreed terms of reference that will guide CPOG’s further detailed discussions on linking in 2012.

Both Ministers said that discussions regarding linking between Australia and New Zealand had begun positively in 2011. Officials are identifying a number of areas where it would be important to work through efficient and practical ways of linking the two schemes. The Ministers noted that linking could commence in 2015, at the start of the flexible pricing period of Australia’s carbon pricing mechanism.

The eagerness of the two countries to lead the world on emissions trading may have something to do with the fact that Australian and New Zealand climate scientists have played a major part in the work of the UN IPCC.

The decision today is further evidence that New Zealand and Australia’s governments are sleepwalking their taxpayers to financial climate suicide. For a country where a majority of citizens believe in ESP and visits by alien elves, promoting belief in human-caused climate change isn’t much of an intellectual leap.

Perhaps a visit to Marc Morano’s ClimateDepot would be an antidote.

Disclosure: Ian Wishart is the author of Air Con: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming and describes himself as a climate change ‘realist’