If there’s a global problem it needs a global solution



Which country does most to protect and least to damage the environment? I wouldn’t put Russia high on my list but under the Kyoto Protocol countries like ours will have to pay Russia if we don’t meet our carbon emission targets.


And will paying millions, maybe even billions, of dollars actually do anything to improve the environment? No. The money would be far better spent on research and development into practices and products which protect and enhance the environment without ruining the economy.


Simon Upton writes about the challenge of halving global emissions while the world’s population doubles. It is worth reading in full and concludes:


As many have observed, even if rich countries eliminated all their emissions, there would still be a problem. So developing countries have to be a big part of any solution.

Lord Stern proposes that all countries should have limitation targets by 2020. But as he observes, it seems unreasonable to expect this “unless developed countries can demonstrate that they can deliver reductions cost-effectively and without threatening growth”.

Developed countries are far from being able to demonstrate that. Some of their policy interventions – like support for biofuels or the continuation of subsidies to fossil fuels – go in the opposite direction. If rich countries can’t cooperate to introduce the least costly policies, why would any other countries consider being saddled with them?


They wouldn’t which is one of the things wrong with current attempts to reduce emissions, including the Kyoto Protocol.


If there is a problem with emissions it’s a global one which needs a global solution, not the piecemeal approach we’ve got now which will cause serious economic damage while doing little to improve the environment and may well damage it more.

Rail purchase all about politics


Fran O’Sullivan  points out that Cullen paid too much buying Railways yesterday.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen has now spent the thick end of a billion dollars of taxpayers’ cash to renationalise a flagging railway system he could have picked up for a song much earlier if he had played a more aggressive hand.

But this isn’t about a prudent financial investment; it’s about ideology and politics. Labour wants State control and to limit what National can promise to spend.

Mr Key is not going to risk electoral wrath by promising to privatise an SOE when he made a commitment otherwise. Instead a National Government will have to try to make the railways profitable – a feat that has defied previous Governments – and get by with less cash to spray around on Mr Key’s own pet infrastructure projects.

Dr Cullen is right to say the selling of the public rail system in the early 1990s and subsequent running down of the asset has proved a “painful lesson” for New Zealand. But that pain is larger due to the excessive amount that he has himself doled out from the taxpayers’ purse to get the asset back in state ownership.

The big question is whether this is the end of Dr Cullen’s buying spree.

I wouldn’t bet on it.

Nor would I. Labour is desperate to win the election and will have no compunction about spending taxpayers’ money on whatever it thinks will help it do that.

But taxpayers will hope yesterday’s acquisition is the final move in the Labour Government’s disastrous history of paying over the odds to acquire assets back from owners that can’t make enough to expand the network themselves to optimal capacity.

History would tell us this isn’t likely, but then Cullen was a historian so he’ll know that history also teaches us the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.

Quote of the week




It’s only Tuesday but it will take a lot to better this from Richard Prebble talking to Paul Henry on TV1 this morning: “Since when have Railways ever been an asset?”

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