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National's Climate Policy: by George W Bush?

National party climate policy: written by George W Bush?

OPINION EDITORIAL

Vanessa Atkinson Greenpeace climate campaigner http://www.greenpeace.org.nz

The National Party's anti-climate change policy is an embarrassment to New Zealanders, who would be excused for confusing National's policies with those of George Bush. In a world where climate change is already impacting real people in real ways and costing real money, National would prefer to allow a business-as- usual approach to destroy the fragile climate system that supports us.

The first thing National would do to the climate is to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol - the only existing international agreement on climate change. The whole world was appalled when Bush and the USA walked away from Kyoto, closely followed by Australia. Now National wants New Zealand to join this tiny cabal of environmental pariahs and ignore what is happening to our planet.

But there is great dissent in the ranks in those countries. Just this week, in the face of continuing droughts linked to climate change, the normally conservative West Australian farmers called on the Australian Government to ratify Kyoto. New Zealand farmers can expect more droughts like the Canterbury farmers faced last year.

In the USA, in the face of Bush's lack of action on climate change, eight States are suing five big power companies to get them to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Does National want to take New Zealand down a path where legal avenues are the only options left?

What the National Party fails to see is that the writing is on the wall for the fossil fuel industry and that the age of renewable energy is here. Those countries that develop their technologies and skills first stand to make the most money out of that transition. It is going to happen with or without us.

New Zealanders need to choose whether we will be at the forefront and gain from the transition or resist and get left behind. National would rather hold us back than become the world leaders we should be on renewable energy.

Unbelievably, the National Party's policy also questions the climate science.

But David King, the British Government's Chief Scientist said in March "... over the last ten years we have now had ten of the hottest years on record over the last 2,000, and all of those predictions are now coming true unfortunately. So we are getting the experimental results that were predicted. The scientific community has reached a consensus. I do not believe that amongst the scientist there is a discussion as to whether global warming is due to anthropogenic[man made] effects".

If the majority of the scientific community isn't questioning the climate science, why is National? Why does National's policy bear a remarkable resemblance to the line run by major oil companies, such as ExxonMobil and their climate sceptic contacts.

Floods, droughts, rising temperatures, drier conditions in the east, wetter in the west, more storms and rising sea levels - we can expect more of these according to our country's pre-eminent climate research organisation, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

But National claims to be 'putting New Zealand's interests first'. Whose interests? Not the farmers already hit by droughts. Nor homeowners hit by severe storms and floods like February's floods which cost New Zealand over $300 million.

The National Party is putting the interests of big business and the fossil fuel industry ahead of the interests of New Zealanders by putting the brakes on any positive action on climate change.

We don't have time to be fiddling at the edges and delaying action. A report to the Pentagon this year warned that climate change was a bigger global threat than terrorism.

But the crowning glory of the National Party's anti-climate policy has to be the absence of any mention of renewable energy.

Everybody knows that the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas is the main cause of global warming and that renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biomass are the solutions. Everyone, that is, except the National Party.

New Zealand has one of the best wind energy resources on the planet. We have been called the 'Saudi Arabia of wind'. Policies to drive the rapid uptake of renewable energy options, which exist right now, must be a cornerstone of any sensible response to climate change.

We need to start thinking about climate change when we are making energy decisions. That means that we need a sensible, long term sustainable energy strategy for New Zealand, one that encourages renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation and leads us away from fossil fuels.

We need a strong long term commitment to international action on climate change, like Kyoto. We need leadership with long term vision to help develop more international measures backed up by strong domestic policies and initiatives to address the biggest environmental and possibly the single biggest threat to the planet.

But the National Party would rather turn its back on sensible action based in reality and sound science, and prefers to listen to big business and the fossil fuel lobby. If National ever gets to implement this policy, then we will all pay the price.

Notes: 1. Melting ice: the threat to London's future, Guardian, Paul Brown, environment correspondent Wednesday July 14, 2004.

ENDS

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