Dr Russel Norman: Budget 2016 - More could be done on climate change

Former Green Party co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / Getty Images
Former Green Party co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / Getty Images

After proclaiming in previous years that coal, oil and industrial dairy would be the economic salvation of the nation, they are all noticeably missing from the Budget this year. Maybe taking a punt on the most climate polluting industries wasn't such a great idea after all. The climate intensive economic strategy has failed to deliver.

The Budget speech does mention climate change ... once. The global crisis that threatens life as we know it. Just one solitary mention. That's admittedly once more than in any of the previous seven Budget speeches.

On the upside, Bill English did give us a clear indication of the cost of subsidies given to climate polluters under the Emission Trading Scheme. He said removing one of the current pollution subsidies (the two-for-one scheme) would improve the budget bottom line by $356 million over four years.

So taxpayers are spending $356 million less on subsidies for climate pollution than before.

Good news.

Except that the subsidies to agricultural climate pollution are untouched. And under the same calculation the subsidy to agricultural climate pollution works out at $1.9 billion over four years.

So you and I are paying $2 billion to increase climate pollution. That is completely mad.

OK, what about water? There's the $100 million allocated to the "Freshwater Improvement Fund".

Sounds good?

But in an Orwellian twist the "Freshwater Improvement Fund" can be spent on subsidising irrigation schemes according to the Ministry 'for' the Environment. And irrigation schemes cause water pollution by reducing flows and increasing intensive dairying and its pollution.

So not only does the Government subsidise irrigation schemes through the Crown Irrigation Fund ($120 million) and the Irrigation Acceleration Fund ($60 million), but the Freshwater Improvement Fund, which could be cleaning up the pollution created by these irrigation schemes, can also be spent on ... more irrigation schemes.

If you don't laugh you'd cry.

The one bright spot is tourism. Our biggest export earner, built on the back of New Zealand's amazing natural environment. And guess who protected that natural environment from destruction. Who laid the foundation for our biggest money earner?

The greenies.

Dr Russel Norman is the executive director of Greenpeace and former Green Party co-leader.

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- NZ Herald

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