National's environmental policy - hollow
*Auckland, Friday 6 October 2006:*
Greenpeace says the National Party's goal of solving all of New Zealand's domestic environmental problems in a single generation is bold, but it unfortunately hasn't followed through with the policies to achieve it.
"This is the first sign we have seen for a long while that National is interested in the environment," says Greenpeace campaign manager, Cindy Baxter. "However, National will need to do a lot more than this to convince New Zealanders it is serious about protecting our environment, and not just looking after a narrow sector of selfish industries."
"National will need to be more willing to regulate, show more courage in tackling unresponsive industries, and step back from its current obsession with privatising natural resources like water. Mangling environmental regulators like the Department of Conservation and Ministry for the Environment will just make problems worse."
Greenpeace has examined the proposed policies of its two main campaigns, climate change and oceans and found them to be vague and inadequate.
Meanwhile, other key environmental issues, such as contaminated sites and genetic engineering, have been ignored altogether.
*Assessment of key policies*
*Climate Change* Despite consulting its international counterparts on climate change policies, National's policy is way behind the climate change policies of other conservatives, including UK Tory Party leader, David Cameron and California Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
National reluctantly accepts the climate science, despite the urgency being voiced by the world's top climate scientists.
National's proposal for a new global treaty looks like it was drafted in Washington or Canberra. Calling for a new treaty is a delay tactic. We have a ten year window to act – are we going to spend those ten years talking about a new treaty, or support the Kyoto Protocol and promote binding targets for emission reductions.
National acknowledges that "emissions reduction of 50% or more are widely expected to be required by 2050". But then they say that only technology breakthroughs can achieve those reductions, and that it will all have to happen overseas elsewhere first, then be transferred to NZ. This is a cross-my-fingers-and-hope policy. The technology to achieve major reductions in emissions already exists in New Zealand, using energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Equally, we cannot rely on forests to soak up all our carbon dioxide. To tackle climate change we need cuts in carbon dioxide emissions – deep cuts, and fast.
*Oceans* Greenpeace agrees with National's claim that the development of a comprehensive oceans policy for NZ is urgently needed, and the process of establishing marine reserves needs to be streamlined. However, National's policy lacks substance.
The policy addresses the difficult issues of quota management and overfishing in its Outdoor Recreational section, but doesn't offer any solutions to address it.
A sound Oceans Policy must integrate all uses of the sea under a precautionary, ecosystem-based management framework. Within this framework, priority must be on maintaining the integrity and quality of the marine environment, while still providing sustainable and equitable economic benefits for New Zealanders living now and those who are yet to be born – future generations.
The proposal to give stakeholders a greater role in the decisions over where marine reserves are created is ambiguous. It also begs the question who the stakeholders are that they refer to. All New Zealanders have a stake in the seas around New Zealand – those who use them as well as those who do not make direct use of them.
*MORE NOTES TO FOLLOW:*
*Polluter Pays principle – GE and Contaminated Sites* Greenpeace agrees with the National Party's "polluter pays" principle, especially when it comes to potential environmental contamination from genetically engineered crops, where liability must fall to the companies.
National hasn't addressed the major problem of New Zealand's many contaminated toxic sites and what to do about them. This is highlighted by this week's news that Nelson has another 12 contaminated sites, which have been hidden by the council.
The Polluter Pays principle, however, needs to be applied here and companies responsible for some of the contaminated sites need to be liable for them. The Sustainable Industry fund is nowhere near enough money to clean up all of New Zealand's highly contaminated sites. There also needs to be a National and Public Register for these sites.
*Forests* It's good to see that National has grasped the problem of the importation of illegally logged wood. Raising public awareness around the Forest Stewardship certification for wood and focusing government purchasing on FSC is to be highly commended and encouraged.
However, the proposals to stop illegal imports are weak and not new. The present government has been trying – and failing – to get the type of multilateral agreements suggested by National, but there is very little interest in the Asia Pacific region.
The voluntary accord idea has been in place for the past ten years – and has barely dented the trade in sawn timber and only scratched the furniture trade. Voluntary agreements don't work. They penalise those who are voluntarily doing the right thing as competitors immediately undercut them. There are too many players who stay out.
If the National Party genuinely wants to address illegal and destructive imports, then border controls requiring third party proof of legality and proof of responsible management such as Forest Stewardship Council certification is the only way to go.
*The Stakeholder Way* Nowhere does National commit the Crown to take a positive role in defending the environment. The Crown does it for health education and infrastructure provision. But for the environment that we live in, that New Zealanders hold so dear, National advocates no central voice.
It's all very well to have stakeholder dialogue and negotiation, but we all know that some stakeholders have a lot more money and leverage than others – and that those voices tend to win out, especially when they threaten legal action. For the environment, the voice of the future generations is absolutely key – and they have been lost.
There is also no mention of the Precautionary Principle, which should be a central plank of the National Party's environmental policy.
*Freshwater* Water privatisation through tradeable permits would be a disaster. We'll end up paying for the rain. Environmental management of the sea has been held back by the privatisation of fish through tradeable quota that allows the fishing industry to run off to the High Court every time they don't like Government policy. We'll see the same thing with freshwater management. Over time ownership of water will tend to become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Maori, foresters, conservationists and anglers have all got reason to fear this policy.
Water is a basic human right: it cannot be owned. Do Kiwis want to end up paying for the rain?
*Government restructuring* National's proposed restructuring will make it harder to protect the environment by weakening the Ministry for the Environment and opening up public conservation land to mining, logging and other destructive activities.
We don't need an EPA to produce environmental standards. The only thing stopping the Ministry for the Environment from producing standards and national policy statements is political commitment, which National lacked through its entire period of government in the 1990s. National's proposed policy still doesn't appear to offer any much needed new environmental standards.
Environmental consistency across the local and regional councils is extremely important – this was the job of the Ministry for the Environment – until a National Government removed it.
National should instead rename and refocus the Ministry of Economic Development as the Ministry of Sustainable Development and keep the Ministry for the Environment as it is, after all economic development is supposed to be sustainable.