Gratuitous hardship

Insights Newsletter
25 March, 2022

In rugby, injuries are all too common. Yet we can be certain that 15 players will start for the All Blacks in their next test. Why? Because rugby teams have reserves ready to step in for the injured.

By the same logic, New Zealand is on track to deliver its climate change commitments.

This week, the New Zealand Initiative released a report, Pretence of Necessity: Why further climate change action isn’t needed and won’t help. The report argues that existing policies will deliver legislated emissions targets.

Parliament has committed to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases. The ‘net’ is crucial. It says domestic removals (for example, carbon captured by pine trees, among other technologies) and offshore mitigation (for example, replanting rainforest) count towards emissions targets.

Removals and offshore mitigation are affordable and available in effectively unlimited quantities. This secures emissions targets.

However well existing policies including the Emissions Trading Scheme cut emissions, this country can be confident it will meet its obligations. Removals and offshore mitigation will be there if needed. In effect, Parliament has given emissions targets their own reserves bench.

That does not mean New Zealand should plant its way to net zero emissions. This country can make reasonable or best efforts to reduce emissions and be certain of success against our targets.

Yet the government is resorting to desperate measures on climate change when it does not need to. It is about to deliver a welter of new policies which will bring untold hardship.

It begins next week. On 1 April, the highly regressive Feebate policy launches. It will add thousands of dollars to the cost of new and used imported vehicles.

The government's massive Emissions Reduction Plan will soon follow. And the Budget has an extraordinary $4.5 billion of new spending on climate change.

None of this is necessary. Parliament has made no commitment that requires further taxes on cars. We do not need to price agriculture emissions, or plant a single further pine tree, to reach net zero emissions. New Zealand has options.

Moreover, for all their cost and disruption, most of the government’s policies will have no effect on net emissions. The government has already capped emissions with changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2020. The new policies have no way to lower emissions from under the cap.

What kind of government inflicts hardship on its citizens when it does not need to?


Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates