Features Australia

Saint Jacinda’s climate change lucky dip

Meaningless gestures and pointless programs galore in NZ

13 February 2021

9:00 AM

13 February 2021

9:00 AM

For most commentators in Australia’s mainstream media, the prime minister of New Zealand should always be referred to as Saint Jacinda. She is the embodiment of progressive wokeness, including looking appropriately sorrowful when required.

Her positions on social and climate policy make her a standout leader and are in stark contrast to our pitiful prime minister whose commitment to Christianity makes him immediately suspect.

The fact that Ardern only first became prime minister after doing a pact with the devil in the form of Winston Peters – that dodgy, nationalistic political manipulator – is a fact overlooked by her many media admirers.

To be sure, she now governs in her own right after winning a Covid election in 2020. And while New Zealand, a small island nation, has controlled the virus well, it has done so at massive economic and fiscal cost.

She has also faced the ignominy of completely failing to achieve anything in terms of boosting affordable housing, a key pledge of her first term in government. There was a fanciful plan to build 100,000 additional homes under the KiwiBuild program. When the actual number came in at 258, she decided to scrap the whole program.

Super embarrassing, you might think. Actually, unremarked is more accurate.

The recent decision by the Ardern government to allow the city council of the People’s Republic of Auckland to continue to impose a hard border on any new housing developments means that house prices in New Zealand’s largest city will continue to rise from their stratospheric levels.

But if you are a saint, none of this stuff matters. She has committed New Zealand to net zero emissions by 2050. She has declared a climate emergency. She is listening to the science. She is a leader we should admire. Why can’t we have one like her?

Indeed, Laura Tingle recently wrote in the Quarterly Essay that New Zealand has taken the ‘high road’ and we should learn from it. New Zealand ‘has repeatedly jumped out of its comfort zone and changed direction harder, faster and for longer than Australia has done in the past half-century’.

Er, the fact that there is no upper house in the New Zealand parliament in combination with its crazy voting system might just explain the vast oscillations in policies that have occurred from time to time.

But here’s the key fact: per capita income in New Zealand is a mere three-quarters of the level in Australia. And over a very long time, there has been no significant narrowing of this gap.

Judged by the number of New Zealanders who live in Australia – there are close to 600,000 or 12 per cent of New Zealand’s population – the ‘high road’ is not a description that would ring true to these émigrés.

Let’s get back to New Zealand’s outstanding approach to climate change. The country makes up less than 0.2 per cent of world emissions. We could easily just denote this as an asterix and be done.

But as all progressives know, it’s the vibe that really matters. And just think how many countries around the world are trying to emulate New Zealand’s example. (Yep, none, but it’s a good try.)

Talking about asterixes, one should also be used in relation to the Ardern’s pledge to net zero emissions by 2050 because methane is excluded. That’s right: all those emissions from burping and farting cows and sheep are not counted.

It is was one reason why Saint Jacinda was denied a speaking part at the international climate talkfest organised by wallowing UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, the French and the UN last year.

Mind you, a number of media commentators in Australia moaned loudly about our exclusion from the same event while forgetting to mention New Zealand also failed to make the team.

In an act of seeming political misjudgment by the Ardern government, a Climate Change Commission has been appointed to provide advice on appropriate measures that should be adopted by the government. (We had a similar arrangement once – the one chaired by mammologist Tim Flannery – but Tony Abbott had the good sense to get rid of it.)

Now the zealots who make up this commission are not of a mind to give those belching animals a free pass. Indeed, the commission’s chair likened farmers to whalers and we all know what happened to whalers, even the good one. That’s right: New Zealand agriculture is the past, not the future.

And giving Saint Jacinda a further touch of heartburn, the other recommendations of the commission include: a massive increase in walking, cycling and public transport; cities that are smaller in terms of their footprint than now (anyone for living in a high-rise dog box?); and 50 per cent of all vehicles being electric by 2027, just 6 years away. (Two per cent of vehicles in New Zealand are currently electric.)

And this one will be popular: a complete ban on the importation of petrol/diesel powered vehicles from 2032. Did I also mention that coal and gas consumption must drop by three-quarters by 2035 with herd sizes for all farm animals to be reduced as well?

Of course, these are only recommendations to the government, but given the Ardern government’s missteps in other policy areas, it’s unclear which ones from this climate lucky dip she won’t implement.

In the past, New Zealand governments have had very bad records in terms of meeting any climate change targets made, including its pledge under the Kyoto treaty.

Were it not for its overinvestment in forests, which are now encroaching on valuable arable land, the Ardern government would be a very long way from meeting its commitments under the Paris agreement. It’s also trying to fudge the figures by using an absolute figure for 2005 and a net figure for 2030, hoping no one notices.

But let’s face it, four-fifths of two-thirds of nothing is nothing. And that’s the level of interest the world is generally taking in New Zealand’s self-destructive climate actions.

But Saint Jacinda can be guaranteed extravagant and unalloyed adulation from the green-left media in Australia, with unfavourable comparisons made with our knuckle-dragging, close-to-climate denying prime minister thrown in for good measure. I’m pretty sure Scott Morrison isn’t too worried.

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