“Green” might be the new black but all that is “green” isn’t necessarily good as this exchange from Question Time last week shows:
4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he stand by all his recent statements as Minister for Economic Development in relation to the Pure Advantage report New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race; if so, why?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Yes, especially my statements that it is important that New Zealand take advantage of all its opportunities for economic growth within sensible environmental and safety protections.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why, then, did he say that he fundamentally disagrees with New Zealand getting a slice of the $6 trillion world market export opportunity in the move to a clean economy, and why does he believe this would be “far too value-destroying” for the New Zealand economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Because the Pure Advantage** people promote shifting a whole lot of resources, particularly Government resources, into subsidising those industries as a way of actually achieving that level of growth, and although* we of course support and encourage our high-tech* and cleantech* industries—and some of them are doing a fantastic job—there is a limit to how much you can support them without being value-destroying for other parts of the economy. Also, saying that certain industries should not be invested in when they represent between them roughly 80 percent of our exports would be value-destroying.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why will he not heed the actual call by Pure Advantage, as clarified by chairman **Rob Morrison, to level the playing field so big pollution has to play by the same rules as innovative Kiwi cleantech* start-ups?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not quite sure what the member is alluding to, but I presume he means that industry should pay higher costs around, for example, emissions than they currently do. Of course, that would mean that they would be paying costs that their competitors in other countries do not face, which would be value-destroying. The challenge for New Zealand as a country trying to grow its exports is to make sure that it does not hobble its exporters with tests and costs that other countries’ exporters do not have to face.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why did he describe the Pure Advantage group of business leaders as self-interested and accuse them of bias in asking for “very big subsidies into industries and firms that would … not be economic …”, when its recent report does not call for specific subsidies; and if he cannot substantiate those claims, will he now withdraw and apologise to Pure Advantage chairman Mr Rob Morrison and trustees such as Mr *Phillip Mills, Mr *Jeremy Moon, Mr *Mark Solomon, and Sir Stephen Tindall*?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am sure that Rob will be quite capable of the robust debate, as I am sure he has been in the past, and I have had good discussions with him about it as well. The point I was making is that in the report it talks a lot and in very positive terms of countries that make very, very big subsidies to industry, such as Spain and the Nordic countries—and also, for example, America with the Tesla Motors** company—and suggested that would be a model for New Zealand to follow. Obviously I disagree. . . .
“Green” jobs are supposed to be good but they come at a considerable cost:
Hon Tim Groser: Is the Minister aware that the Pure Advantage report suggested that a very good model to follow would be the Birmingham City Council** green growth strategy, which produced 270 jobs at a cost of nearly $2 million a job, and does he think that is a sensible model to follow for New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, I am aware of that and a number of other models cited in the report. I think that illustrates the problem with the approach. The debate has actually moved on and in the New Zealand economy we are focused very much on greening our successful export industries and developing new industries, and not just trying to pick winners, as Mr Cunliffe seems to be advocating.
We have only one world and it behoves us to take care of it for those who follow us but sustainability is supposed to balance economic, environmental and social factors.
All that’s “green” isn’t good when it’s based on emotion rather than science and if it doesn’t stack up economically and socially.