ETS- to have or not to have?


ETS – to have or not to have?
THE clamour from the different organisations and political parties calling for action on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) lacks balance and reason.
Many of the arguments used have been based on perceived moral obligations, hysteria, dogma and self-interest.
Nowhere have the cold hard facts – scientific, economic, or social – been used to advance arguments that would engage one’s mind in a debate about the merits of the various positions being proposed.
Political expediency has ensured the scientific debate has been reduced to a battle between believers and deniers. This deliberate ploy has meant there has been, in effect, no allowance of the opportunity for serious debate between different scientific points of view at academic and bureaucratic levels.
No Government ministries are, or have, openly discussed the possibilities of different scientific facts that could change the way in which we deal with climate change.
Insurance companies, accountancy companies and legal firms are spending megabucks to discover how to take a cut from the billions of dollars that are expected to be traded because of an ETS.
Teachers in secondary schools and lecturers in universities are filling the minds of students with only one part of the debate and in so doing have become politically active in sustaining a view that may not stand scrutiny at a later date.
While the money changers in the back rooms get very close to Government and are looking for ways to make money from carbon trading, those non-governmental organisations whose financial existence relies on tugging the heartstrings of impressionable folk are resorting to using arguments based on making the rest of the community feel guilty for not being more like them.
Those who are being asked to pay the cost of an ETS are justifiably questioning the reasons for doing so and whether or not the millions of dollars are going to solve the problems deemed to exist.
The decision to include or exclude sectors has been based on the ease of collection, cost of compliance and mitigation options. For agriculture, mitigation is limited and if it is to be allowed then the cost of compliance monitoring at farm level will, in all likelihood, be horrendous.
For this reason the cost of compliance has been elevated to the level of first importance and farmers will face a carbon tax by virtue of the point of obligation being processing companies.
These will average the liabilities amongst their suppliers and in so doing minimise their cost of administration.
The regulatory impact analysis that is supposed to precede such decisions has not been published if in fact it has been done at all. This is important because the cost of the ETS has not been honestly explained to New Zealanders by successive Governments or the political parties involved in the decision on whether or not to have an ETS, and whether the existing legislation be allowed to remain unaltered. 
For those driven by dogma and hysteria, the group that pays does matter. It is important that it is not them for they are always right. For the Government, fighting to ensure the long-term economic success needed to pay for the services that our community demands it is vitally important.
Hence, it is important that the regulatory impact analysis is open and transparent. Without it, there will continue to be misunderstanding and misuse of political power.
In this time of MMP it is necessary to know what the stakes are and that Parliament is working in the best interest of all its citizens.
This is a global issue, not a New Zealand issue, and destroying our economy does nothing to help the world situation. At 0.2% of global emissions we don’t even register.
·        Rural News columnist Frank Brenmuhl is a former dairy farmer and past vice-president of Federated Farmers.