The new Minister for Climate Change, Paula Bennett has emphatically demonstrated her selective ethics while in New York signing the Paris Accord on Climate Change. The issue she inherits is that New Zealand under the governance of Tim Groser cheated and cheated badly on it its climate change commitments. No other country has cheated anywhere near to the extent that New Zealand has and this is the legacy our new Ambassador to the United States has left.
New Zealanders have not got an established reputation as cheats and so for this performance by Groser, endorsed by Bennett to be fobbed off as all in the past and of no consequence now is new territory for New Zealand – and no doubt will be of marked interest to Transparency International which has already marked New Zealand down of late for bad behaviour over the ETS, increased redacting of OIA requests, secrecy around the TPPA process – and with our role in the Panama Papers yet to be counted.
To put this in a lingo that perhaps the new Minister of Climate Change, past Minister of Social Welfare might understand – how would she feel if a New Zealander cheated on their social welfare benefits? Would she demand reparation and punishment or would she simply say it’s all okay so long as you don’t do it again. Her track record would suggest the former. What’s changed or is she just the Minister of Double Standards?
To give Paula Bennett credit, she has inherited a mess and a portfolio where corrupt manipulation of New Zealand’s climate change undertakings has been rife. She is at least acknowledging that “mistakes were made”. But that alone is not good enough, she needs to expunge the growing doubts about her government’s integrity. The fact is that by cheating on its climate obligations New Zealand has a debt to pay. We cannot just promise not to do it again and expect to get away without sanction. Indeed that past behaviour has substantial implications for our future undertakings on emissions reductions.
Because we cheated and used the proceeds of organised crime in the Ukraine and Russia to claim we’d met past undertakings on emissions reductions, the fact is we have consciously stockpiled legitimate carbon credits for future use – when we should have used those credits, rather than the false credits to meet those past targets. If we had a modicum of honesty about us we would do a mea culpa, acknowledge we cheated, and trash those crap credits we used to meet our targets and reduce our stockpile of legitimate credits to make good on those past obligations.
Of course surrendering our ill gotten gains would leave fewer genuine credits to meet future (2020) obligations meaning, heaven forbid, we might finally have to get real and reduce our domestic emissions – something the government, with its heritage of climate change denial, has been trying to avoid at all costs.
It’s for this reason Mrs Bennett cannot credibly claim it’s all in the past and there’s no news here. The news is she is determined to keep cheating by not making good on the damage her predecessor inflicted. The consequences of our cheating have a major influence on how we will meet our 2020 undertakings.
Minister Bennett is failing to demonstrate integrity. Like her predecessor she’s happy trying to get away with as much cheating as the rest of the world will tolerate. The question for New Zealanders is whether we think this is good enough, whether we want our new Minister of Climate Change to be more honest and demonstrate a standard of New Zealand ethics we won’t be ashamed of.
To do so will require her to not just acknowledge we cheated (she’s already admitted that) but actually make good on that behaviour – as she would expect any social welfare cheat to have done. If she is incapable of meeting that standard then New Zealanders rightly should ask whether this new Minister is actually fit for purpose. Her reputation is on the block
Regardless I would expect Transparency International to whack New Zealand for its ugly behaviour and drum some sense into a government that thinks it can move from climate change denial to blatant cheating on the emissions undertakings it has made.
We have failed to act responsibly on reducing our domestic emissions
NZ is a very high per capita emitter, we need to do more than most to get to carbon neutral
The sign of a cheat – pigging out on fraudulent ERU credits