I never read kiwiblog, the site where David Farrar, pollster to the National Party and certain other right-wing organisations, writes spin disguised as commentary. I get more than enough of that when I have to go down to the House and listen to Paul Quinn, Nicky Wagner or any one of about 15 other talentless National backbenchers reading out word for word what is written for them by Farrar’s fellow-travellers in the National Party Research Unit.
But I got an email today from NZ telling me that kiwiblog has criticised 3 aspects of my first post from Cancun. Apparently, Farrar:
1. expresses astonishment that I would attend the Climate Change Conference as part of a trade union delegation, and asks his readers to imagine the outcry if a National MP came to something like this as part of a delegation from big business;
2. decrees that only modest prgress will be made at this climate change conference, and wonders why I have bothered to pay for myself to attend; and
3. mocks my concerns for some of my family members whose house in Tahiti is about 6m from the high tide line on their island, saying I’m scaremongering.
In reply, briefly, because I’m going to spend the time from now on posting from here on things that actually matter:
1. I’m proud to be here with union leaders. Their members in NZ and elsewhere will be profoundly affected by the moves we all need to make to a low-pollution economy. It is essential that transition should be a just one, internationally, and in NZ. When we’re next in Government and we reconfigure National’s unaffordable and unfair ETS, making this happen will be a key design element.
As for National MPs attending COP16 as part of a delegation from big business – well, given the total surrender to big business interests by National – why would they bother? Reading the posts from Cancun from Business NZ, you’d think that they’d been written in Nick Smith’s office. But then, if you knew that Smith’s climate change advisor went straight into that role from Business NZ, you’d hardly be surprised by the commonality in thinking and language.
2. That thinking is this – that NZ in and of itself can do little to affect global temperature changes, so we should try to hide behind the inaction of others, like the US, and take as few steps as possible to deal with climate change. Never mind the damage we do to our international reputation, or to strategic and trade relations with the Pacific, the EU, China, India and others. It’s the thinking that will lead the Nats next year to exempt farmers from the ETS. It’s the thinking that may lead to these talks collapsing completely because the US – the biggest industrial emitter, backed by NZ – says that it won’t accept an obligation to reduce pollution unless even the poorest and least developed country on the planet does so as well. And when the least developed object to that logic, Tim Groser labels them “extremists” and suggests that if the talks collapse or fail to make any decent progress, it will be their fault.
There’s nothing inevitable about making progress here, and only by keeping the pressure on, and exposing this thinking for what it is, can we hope to keep prospects for any international agreement at all on climate change alive. I paid for myself to get here, with thousands of other NGO representatives and private citizens, to help keep that pressure on, and to expose that thinking for the nonsense it is. That’s the only way forward to one day get the ambitious, binding, global agreement which we need, and to which I refer in my initial post.
3. I don’t usually refer in public to my family, out of respect for their right to privacy. But being an NZ MP of Pasifika ancestry, I can’t help but feel a highly personal connection with the climate change problem, which is one of the reasons I took on the spokespersonship. As I said in my first post, my aunts in Tahiti live 6m from the high tide line on their island. But that 6m is a sloping line over a gradient of no more half a metre (it’s only in Niue where you can safely measure distances from the sea vertically). In other words, they’re 500cm above above sea level. Like hundreds of thousands of other dwellings in the Pacific, it will be catastrophically affected by the sort of sea level changes predicted in the latest IPCC research (which the scientists now say is excessively conservative). It’s of frankly little comfort to anyone that those changes might occur over a timeframe that leaves the current occupants ok, but the next generation, or the one after that, homeless.
Still, why would I expect anyone from the National Party, with a misunderstanding of our Pacific neighbourhood so complete that it is switching our foreign aid policy away from poverty reduction, to grasp a point like this? I guess it needs more experience of the Pacific than you’d get by spending your summer holidays in a condo n Hawaii.