The past few weeks have, in my opinion, exposed the biggest climate change problem in this country. Cows? Nope. Cars? Nope. I believe it's the National Party.

This would be laughable if it wasn't for the pain it will cause. And not just environmental pain: National's position on climate change will undermine our economy and damage us socially. Delays now will lead to crisis management later and the people worst affected will include farmers, coastal dwellers and the poor.

As long as National holds to this position, to me it demonstrates it is unfit to govern.

National says it knows we have to combat climate change but undermines every effort to address the issue: sneers at plans to promote rail, refuses to endorse the Zero Carbon Bill, claims it will reintroduce new rights to fossil fuel exploration.


These past few, it's done its best to destroy the Government's proposals for vehicle and agricultural emissions.

Those emissions sources should be beyond politics by now. Of course we have to reduce them, as fast as we can. The proposals for both are cautious, inclusive and so moderate that, by any objective measure, they will not achieve their goals nearly fast enough.

But they are a start. Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has proposed a common ground on which we can build. All National has done in response is dig it up.

The vehicle emissions plan includes subsidies for electric and low-emissions vehicles and penalties for gas guzzlers. It will be phased in, to give consumers and the car industry time to adjust. It won't penalise the poor or transfer wealth to the very wealthy and it's cost neutral.

It's not as far-reaching as the regulations already in place in many other countries. It's the least we can do.

But National has told us the plan will cost too much, will be too hard to manage, won't be effective, will favour unsafe cars: any criticism goes. On social media there's been a barrage of attack ads displaying little respect for facts. The policy will help pay for electric Porsche Cayennes, for example. That's simply untrue: luxury cars will not be subsidised.

National leader Simon Bridges has gone backwards on electric vehicles. He was so enthusiastic about their future when he was Minister of Transport, he introduced a $40 million policy to exempt them from Road User Charges. Now, he and his party are trying to brand the vehicle emissions proposal as merely another tax.

Within 20 years, our vehicle fleet, like most of the world's, will have to be fossil-fuels free. The longer we delay the transition, the more likely we'll have to do it with harsh measures: much higher fuel taxes, say, or straight bans on classes of vehicle.


That's not the Government's approach. But it is the consequence of National's.

It's the same story with Climate Change Minister James Shaw's farm emissions plan: it, also, is moderate to a fault. There's a five-year introductory period. Farmers will get a 95 per cent discount, meaning they could pay as little as 1 cent a kilo of milk solids.

Agreement on farm-gate analysis will reward individual effort even though it's expensive to set up. Decisions on the size of levies will be away from political interference. There's a major commitment to scientific research and an agreement to consult on the farm lobby's own proposals for introducing the scheme.

And still National doesn't get it. Bridges told RNZ it will be technological solutions, not "taxes", that determine the future of farm emissions. But that's already part of the Government's proposal. Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says levies will be set by the Climate Change Commission at a level "depending upon the technology available at the time".

This goes to the heart of the latest proposal and the plans for agriculture announced earlier with the Zero Carbon Bill. We know methane emissions must be reduced but we don't yet know how. So the regime will be open to reaping the benefits that come from scientific breakthroughs, as they occur.

National's climate change spokesman, Todd Muller, chimed in, saying National supports "technology not taxation" and "partnership not pricing".


That is, National wants to reframe the market tool of pricing as taxation, and wants us to believe it is the party of co-operation. Partnership.

That's nonsense. It's the current Government that got agreement from everyone to bring the farming sector into the fold. As Dairy NZ's CEO, Tim Mackle, said about the announcement, the "bottom line" in the plan was that the sector had engaged.

National, on the other hand, spent a lot of energy in the previous election campaign trying to stoke the fires of an "urban-rural divide": remember that supposedly independent Matamata farmers' protest? It was organised by party activists.

The Government is not leading the world on any of this. When National proclaims, as it did again this week, that we should not move "ahead of our trading partners", what it really means is that we should align ourselves with countries that are among the most irresponsible climate emitters on the planet: the US and Australia.

Sadly, there is method in this madness. While the climate-change train is leaving the station, Scott Morrison won the Australian election by making a point of getting off it. Simon Bridges has told us more than once he really loves ScoMo. As for Donald Trump, he's not only not on the train, he's blowing up the tracks.

Is that National's plan? Derail the climate change train for no other reason than it has spotted a rump of voters who will cheer it on? The politics of ignorance and greed, and bugger the consequences?


The tragedy to me is that National isn't just National. By trying to block every effort to fight climate change, it gives cover to others trying to do the same. Elements of the farming sector, elements of the motoring sector. And NZ First.

If National had a responsible approach, it would help lead those elements to a constructive position and NZ First would become irrelevant. We'd have effective transitions happening across many sectors. We'd be much further into the task of building a climate-change-resilient nation, economically and socially, sharing the pain and sharing the rewards too.

And yet, instead of climate change becoming a bigger-than-politics issue, National is going to make it a key point of difference.

This just in: if you think California's wildfires are getting bigger, you're right. Since 1972, the area that burns every summer has grown by 800 per cent. Fiercer fires, caused by summers that are 1.8C warmer. It might not sound like much, but heat has an exponential effect on fire. We've already seen it in Christchurch's Port Hills and near Nelson. We'll keep seeing it.