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Catching The Climate Ball And Running With It

Catching The Climate Ball And Running With It

Sean Weaver, Ekos

Imagine a rugby game where a group of very capable players try to help one player called Johnny to simply catch the ball and run and score a try. Imagine Johnny just standing there, watching the ball arch across his field of view and letting it bounce away into touch. Every time.

This is what the government seems to be doing to the climate change innovation sector. Here’s the thing: emissions trading is a clever piece of policy kit originally designed to enable an emission reduction target to be reached at least cost to the economy. This, in turn, is based on sound economic analysis that shows that the real costs of doing something for reducing climate risk is non-trivial but lower than the real costs of not doing so.

A country that catches this ball and runs with it can become more energy efficient. A smart government would use the carbon price to strategically incentivize innovation by rewarding low carbon, energy efficient development, and financing the government contribution to those rewards through intergovernmental emissions trading. Hands up who do not want foreign financial incentives to help drive a transition to a more efficient economy?

The same carbon price can be used as a market signal to investors in upstream energy generation and transportation sectors so that they make the prudent decision to invest where the carbon liability will be lower: renewable energy, low carbon technologies, and smart transportation infrastructures.

On the supply side, a carbon price of NZ$15 or more can incentivise the forest sector to plant up marginal farmland in productive forestry, and enable natural forest regeneration to support catchment management in our rural hinterlands in much need of it – like the East Coast. This has the added benefit of reducing the future cost of floods and storm events that (aside from the Christchurch earthquake) are the most expensive civil calamities our country faces.

So as the ink dries on the Paris Climate Agreement, and Paula Bennett explores her role as Climate Change Minister, lets hope that she and Johnny can catch this ball and run with it, because this global challenge is not just a game.


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