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Saturday, 6 October 2018
Climate Change Costs
A range of stories have come out in the past few days and weeks that
The stark alternatives. pn98
illustrate how complex the economic costs of fighting climate change will be. In some ways, it's money that simply has to be spent – either action is taken on climate change, or the world cooks. And politically, PM Jacinda Ardern has famously described climate change as "my generation's nuclear free moment." But that's still not going to make it any easier to put money where mouths are.
Climate change minister James Shaw is promising the government will sweeten the deal for those wanting to buy electric cars, reports Newshub. He wouldn't go into detail, but has earlier floated the idea of a 'feebate' – that would be where owners of high polluting cars would pay a fee, and electric car owners would get a rebate. The major problem with that though is that cheaper, higher polluting cars tend to be owned by lower-income people, who would barely be able to afford the fee, let alone upgrading to an electric car. Taxing the poor to incentivise the rich would make for a deeply economically regressive policy, and Mr Shaw has said whatever the final version is will have to make sense for lower-income people too.
Then there's the Zero Carbon bill, currently going through Parliament, and reports about the need to cut methane emissions. It probably won't be possible for New Zealand to meet Paris Climate Accord targets without cutting methane, but that could also seriously hurt farming.
Then there's the incoming ban on offshore oil and gas exploration, which as Politik reports this morning is going to cost the country huge amounts of money, and could push electricity prices up. There's conjecture about what that will do for emissions – critics say it will just encourage dirtier emissions production in other parts of the world, while supporters say the oil and gas simply needs to be kept in the ground and not used.
And finally, Consumer NZ is warning that households that install solar panels will find that it will take decades for them to pay for themselves, reports Stuff. Installation costs are into the thousands of dollars, and there have been calls for government backed interest free loans to help people switch over.
The point with all of this is that none of the actions that can be taken on climate change will be easy, or quick fixes, or cheap and painless. But perhaps more alarmingly, various world powers seem completely unwilling to do their bit at all, to the point where major climate change reports are being watered down so as to not appear too frightening – the theory being that it's better to present the problem as manageable rather than engender a sense of fatalism. PM Ardern will be widely praised for her words on climate change while at the UN this week, but it's the actions of her government, and all the others around the world, that will matter a lot more in the long run.
Related: Former Swedish PM Carl Bildt takes a more optimistic view. "The Case Against Climate Despair." Read here