I sometimes wonder about this country. First of all we told the world that we were clean and green and carbon friendly, so we signed the Kyoto Protocol as a sign of good faith. Our government likes to set a good example and we are very PC (politically correct) so we led the way. Of course we noted that countries like the United States, China and other major polluters didn’t sign, possibly because they uderstood the implications better than our politicians did. I believe even Australia didn’t join the party.
Then we started looking inward and understanding the implications and in the last year we have seen dramatic changes in the way we look at ourselves, much of it very good. Business and consumers have been given lots of opportunities to measure their carbon footprint and look at ways that we can recycle and in other ways try to become carbon neutral.
I understand that one of the Agreements we have signed allows us to only have to worry about the increase in carbon emissions since 1999. Now I’m not a specialist in this area and not so much interested in the finer details. I’m happy wherever possible to do my bit as a consumer and in business. I have been recycling and separating paper waste, plastic, metals and glass from my household waste and do the same in the office wherever practicable.
I was surprised to learn recently that even though as a country we are separating waste into various categories much of it is still dumped and not recycled, but that’s another story.
I don’t have a major issue with carbon trading within business in our country, for those who wish to partake, but for many small businesses that it is a problem, yet another compliance issue that makes it difficult for businesses to focus on generating revenue and hopefully profit. This has the potential to damage many industries in New Zealand.
What really bugs me though is that even though we have loads of native bush and domestic forestry and are largely an agrcicultural nation, we will apparently still have to buy carbon credits from other countries who have a better carbon footprint. I wouldn’t have too much of a problem with this if it applied to the entire developed world, but when giant countries who have huge large scale industrialisation and generate mass pollution, greenhouse gases etc don’t and don’t have to participate, this situation is unfair.
I accept that the world can’t go on as it is and that the future landscape for our children and grandchildren looks bleak. I accept that we have to take responsibility and I believe that most New Zealanders do. Even industry such as the Comalco aluminium smelter in Invercargill which could close down due to the proposed carbon taxes claims to be the greenest of the 200 off smelters around the world. If they close due to our governments obsession of being the best example in the world, they will take away 3,000 direct and indirect jobs which in an area of only around 50,000 people could be enough to close the city down economically.
The government want us to pay carbon tax on our petrol which is already up at the highest level it has ever been per litre, as well as adding regional taxes to pay for roading developments, public transport improvements, when traditionally the taxes we pay in this area go to the consolidated fund to be used on whatever they deem important. Fortunately there is a moratorium on this for 2 years, I wonder if there is any relevance to this being an election year. Then instead of using those taxes to improve our country’s carbon footprint, we have to buy tax credits from other countries and then on top of that again, they will want us to spend even more money on trying to become carbon neutral.
All of this in a climate (pardon the pun) where house prices are higher than they have ever been, food prices are going through the roof, interest rates are high, in short the cost of living is far exceding the average income earners pay increases and businesses in the finance industry are falling over. I could go on, but if you live here you know what I am talking about. We don’t have enough money to support our stretched resources in health and many children are going to school without breakfast in our working class areas.
So for all of that, instead of taking carbon taxes and investing them in our own country to improve our sustainability, our government wants to send the money to other countries. I applaud the government for drawing our attention to the environment, to our responsibility to its health and to future generations. But surely the money would be better spent at home? If the rules are not the same and enforcable for the whole developed world, then lets make our home a better place and set the example. We can’t afford to give money to other countries who are ‘greener’ than us, because it sets a good example. Let’s tidy up our own back yard and become sustainable and then say to China and the USA and anyone else that isn’t doing their bit, ‘follow our example’.