Wednesday, February 15, 2017

National gives up on energy efficiency II

Back in December the government released its draft New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy 2017 - 2022 for consultation. The draft was an ambitionless document practically devoid of targets (and hence accountability). So how did it end up that way?

Today I received the background policy advice on the development of the NZEECS. It shows that the strategy was weak from the start, with an aversion to specifics on which the government might be held accountable. The scary thing is that it got even weaker during its development. Most notably, the version circulated for stakeholder consultation last year included a climate change objective that:

Activities promoted through this strategy contribute to New Zealand meeting its international commitments to reduce emissions while supporting economic growth.

Despite support from stakeholders, this vanished from the final draft. There is no record of why, but the obvious reason is National's strong tendency towards climate change denial.

Its not just climate change which was removed. From Cabinet documents the early versions proposed a range of actions on passenger transport and separating out the polluting and inefficient road freight transport system out for special action. None of this happened. Instead we got a business-as-usual electric vehicle target, no action on general car fuel efficiency, and nothing specific for freight. I guess the Road Transport Forum and Mainfreight are getting value for money for their donations.

What's disappointing is that it could have been so much better. The release includes a report prepared by MBIE on National energy efficiency policies: a global context, which examines policies is places like Japan, California, Germany, Finland, Norway, Italy, Iceland and Quebec. Its basicly a shopping list of all the stuff we could be doing, but aren't: higher road-user charges for dirty trucks, solar subsidies to promote distributed renewable generation, fuel diversification, and feed-in tariffs for wind. Instead, we're committed to electric vehicles because the Minister has one (sorry, two) and a vague business-as-usual target for industrial heat with no specific policies to bring it about. Heckuva job, National! That'll really help us quickly decarbonise the energy system to prevent climate change!