Thursday, 21 July 2011

My speech from a debate on the Emissions Trading Scheme

Here is my speech I gave last night in a debate at Vic University about the Emissions Trading Scheme. I like to think I won, so below are my convincing arguments so you can judge for yourself!

Tena koutou katoa.

My name is Zachary Dorner, and I'm proud to be standing before you as the Green@Vic candidate, campaigning for the Party Vote for the Green Party this election year. It's great to see Environment Week rolled out for another year – something I had the pleasure of doing last year when I was Environmental Officer. It’s great to see what an excellent job Haley's done this year. Thanks to VUWSA for organising this important debate about an issue close to my heart.

Emissions trading schemes are a bit like Weetbix. Many people find them bland, they have a complicated structure with many layers, and unless you sweeten them up (and add some milk) they are hard to swallow.
If you add too many sweeteners to Weetbix, and too much milk, you get a sickening mess, and you lose all nutritional value of the Weetbix. And that’s what John Key did as soon as he got into power. He added billions of dollars worth of subsidies (sweetners) to our biggest polluters, put too much milk on the New Zealand economy and environment, and left tax payers to foot most of the bill. No nutritional value, no environmental or economic benefit, just a big, sickening, soggy mess. John Key’s ETS was a failure from the start.

The Green Party has a plan for a smart green economy that works for everyone – the people, the environment and our future.
Although the evidence is all around us, and there’s a near consensus of climate scientist on climate change, that it is real and caused by humans, some people still need convincing. Last year was the warmest year on record – roughly equal to 2005 and 1998. And record temperatures continue. If that’s not enough for year, here’s what the NZ Herald said last Saturday (16 July):

It began with the China floods in May last year, coinciding, in June, with widespread fires and drought in Russia, coinciding with record breaking monsoon flooding in Pakistan that killed 1,500 people and left 20 million homeless. That was followed by a "once-in-a- century" drought in the Amazon - except that the last once-in-a-century event in the region happened just five years before.

In December a million hectares of Colombia was underwater. Sri Lanka had its heaviest rains for 100 years. The Philippines had four weeks of sustained rain in January, Brazil had catastrophic mudslides killing 600 people and then Queensland was inundated - the flood waters covering an area larger than Germany and France combined.

In April the mighty Mississippi and Missouri rivers swelled to record levels causing spillways to be opened and mass evacuations, followed by one of the largest tornado outbreaks in American history. Meanwhile a nine-month drought continues to parch Texas and Oklahoma and China evacuated some 500,000 people in June from floods along the Yangtze River following the worst drought in 50 years.
New Zealand meanwhile has experienced record temperatures, record flooding in Whakatane, and a host of unusual weather conditions, including two tornados – one deadly one in Auckland, and one on the Kapiti coast.

As predicted, climate change is bringing unstable weather, and a climate in which it is harder to grow our food - already raising global food prices - and harder to plan for the future. A future our generation is meant to inherit.

In order to deal with this issue, a research levy on agriculture emissions was proposed in 2003, later ditched due to lobbying from farmers against what they called the “fart tax” (though everyone knows most emissions come from cow’s burps). Then a carbon tax was proposed, and ditched around 2006. This was followed by the release of Al Gore's movie about climate change, which promptly convinced the then Labour Government that something needed to be done – so they constructed a hideously complex ETS instead, which was passed in 2008, with the help of the Greens and NZ First.

We had strong reservations about it, but with just 6 MPs, we had limited sway and felt it was important to get a price on carbon – though not without improving the scheme as much as we could before supporting it, including a billion dollars into a home insulation scheme. It was a start.

Enter John Key's National Government. Ignoring old bowls of soggy Weetbix laying around the Ministry for the Environment, as soon as he got into power, he trashed the ETS. He halved the price on carbon, took the cap out of the “cap and trade” system, and added in billions of dollars of subsidies to our largest polluters, which are allocated via a non-transparent process. Polluters will not pay their full and fair share for their pollution until around 2084 under the scheme. Not very smart when you’re borrowing $300 million a week.

Any emissions reductions achieved in the short run will be negligible – possibly around only 0.7% below business as usual by the end of next year, by which time we should have done a lot more. What the science tells us, is that developing countries need to cut emissions by 25 to 40%, below 1990 levels, by 2020 - which we are already over 20% above in NZ. Arguing with the science of environmental limits is like arguing with an oncoming bus – the laws of physic will win every time.

Meanwhile, an ETS, especially one as weak as the current one we have in place, needs other measures to be in place to ensure emission reductions. John Key instead has decided to commit nearly $10 billion to build just seven new motorways over the next three years, increase our mining on conservation land (yes, he's still planning to do that, just not as bad as originally planned), drill for oil in our deep oceans with little or no regulation to prepare us for an oil spill, and allow some of our best farmland in Southland to be mined for lignite, the most dirty form of dirty coal.

So clearly John Key does not care about the environment, does not care about our generation, and he certainly does not care about our most valuable asset – our clean green brand in our beautiful country.
Luckily we have the Green Party in Parliament – the Party with the best understanding of the economic and environmental situation we find ourselves in. Whether we care or we don't, New Zealand's clean green brand is worth a lot of money. Further, the global economy is going green, with or without us.

The green economic wave is coming, could be worth $6 trillion annually globally already and we can either let it swamp us, or ride it from our prime position. As the new business group Pure Advantage points out, we risk loosing this prime position – slipping from number one in the international Environmental Performance Index, to number 15 last year in the space of just 5 years. The Green Party has a plan for a smart green economy that works for everyone, that will reverse this decline.

In terms of climate change, the Green Party’s current policy is to improve the ETS, though our first preference has always been a carbon charge, recycled into income tax reductions. This goes along with our plan for ecological tax reform – to tax bads, like carbon emissions, and reduce taxes on goods, like income.

We would improve the ETS by putting a cap on emissions, and make sure we cover taxpayer liabilities under international agreements like Kyoto as fast as possible. We will also put a cap on how many international credits can be purchased, so emissions reductions are at home, like Australia is planning. This is important to ensure we move towards a smart, green economy here in New Zealand, rather than paying others to do it for us in their countries.

And of course we need to look at the resilience of our entire economy, to make sure we are the full package – the real deal. So the Green Party will transfer money from motorways into better, faster and smarter public transport, to make sure New Zealanders have choice in how they get around, and that they don’t bear the brunt of rising petrol prices. We will protect our most treasured places, and ensure any mining done is not going to wreck our beautiful country, or our climate. We would clean up our waterways. And we would use our public assets (rather than selling them) to partner with private industry, to develop clean tech and green tech, such as Whispertech’s current partnership with publicly owned Meridian Energy.

By taking these important steps, and having an economic vision for New Zealand, we will transform our economy into a smart green economy. We will be playing to our Pure Advantage and we will be setting ourselves up for future prosperity with a quality of life that we can be proud of.

John Key’s ETS was a failure from the start, and so is his lack of economic vision. Only a Party Vote for the Green Party will ensure a we create smart green economy that works for everyone, so we have a future worth looking forward to.

My campaign opening speech!

Here it is.

It was a few months ago now, but it feels like the campaign really is heating up now, so I thought it was still a good time to post it. Enjoy!

Kia ora koutou,

It’s great to see so many of you come in support of the Greens@Vic campaign launch party for election 2011! I’m Zachary Dorner, the Greens@Vic Candidate, and I’m excited to be sharing the stage with the awesome James Shaw, our Wellington Central Candidate, and one of our hard working Green MPs, Dave Clendon.

Thanks to the awesome Greens@Vic organising team for helping make this night a success. And thanks heaps to Sophie and the Realistic Expectations for coming to entertain us, and Martin Wilson for providing sound and lighting gear.

The theme of this campaign launch, and of the opening campaign around the country is “What are you looking forward to?” Today at Vic we’ve been asking many fellow students that question, and you can get your photo taken too tonight by our roaming photographer Simon.

We’re asking this question to help us all think about what the future might hold. JS/DC has already outlined what an important year this is for New Zealand, and the question is doubly important for young students like us to ask.

John Key seems like a nice guy and all, and I’d certainly want to have him at my place for a beer and a BBQ. I do, however, have a number of bones to pick with him at this hypothetical BBQ that will never happen.

First question for John – Why did you cut taxes for your rich mates, then cut Working for Families, Kiwisaver and Tertiary Education funding on the grounds of not having enough tax revenue? (You got free tertiary education John, the least you could do is invest in my generation’s education, and our future prosperity.)

Second question – Why do you hate young people? OK, that might be a little bit unfair, but someone looking in from the outside at your policies might conclude that you do. For students like us, if we are looking for a job, we face an uphill battle. (Youth unemployment is at 19%, and even well qualified people are struggling to find work, like you and I should be, come the end of our degrees. That’s a problem with your poor economic management John – not very good for a Party that prides itself on economic management.)

Third question – Why do you hate young people? This time the question is a little fairer. When you grew up, you could swim safely in our lakes and rivers, now you’re allowing this to become all but impossible for us. And when you were young you would have thought the weather came and went, but the overall climate would stay the same. But in the last nine months you subsidised big polluters by $800 million to ensure there will be more floods, more freak weather events, and no stability or certainty left in the climate for people in my generation.

Now, John – I would say – if that is your real name, there are really great ways you could change all this. You could join the Green Party or adopt our policies. The Green Party will create a future we can all look forward to.

By supporting the Green Party, you are supporting tertiary education.

By supporting the Green Party, you are supporting Green jobs for all, and a prosperous economy.

By supporting the Green Party you are supporting affordable, warm and healthy housing – and that includes the Wellington student flat.

And at this point John Key would be like “OMG, that lyk totes makes sense now. After today, which is Friday, I will get straight to work on that Green economic vision that is so much better than my current one, which is non-existant.”

Yes, my friends, that is the type of advocacy I am capable of. And that is why I am your candidate, for Victoria University, and the Green Party, this election year.

I come from a place of social and environmental advocacy that started while listening to Bomber on Channel Z – an awesome radio station, for those of you not old enough to remember. I built up a Green group at school, Onslow College out in J-ville. Now I am studying economics and environmental studies at Vic, I spent last year as VUWSA’s Environmental Officer, and this year I am campaigning for the Green Party through Greens@Vic.

Through my experiences I have worked out a magical formula, which I shall reveal to you tonight. Ready? You can change the world, learn heaps of cool shit in the process, and have an awesome time all at once.

And I can see that you all agree, which is why you are here tonight to have a good time, and start changing New Zealand for the better. So make sure you are signed up, to help the Greens@Vic out, and to help out the Wellington Greens this election year.

You will be able to join us in such projects as: votes and vino – heading out to the Wairarapa to get their votes, and to sample some of their delicious wine. The warm healthy rentals competition, where we try and find the crappest flat in Wellington, to make the point that we should set minimum standards on rental housing. We’ll be enrolling young people to vote, and we are planning on creating a student army in the two weeks after exams finish and before the election on November 26, to paint the town Green.

You can also help us with great election moments such as dressing up in costumes, secret late night missions, putting up and taking down billboards in the rain, and so many other fun fun times.

And at the end of it all, on election night when we get more Green MPs elected than ever before and have a great party, you can think “I was a part of making that happen”. So make sure you give your details to one of the people roaming around with clipboards so we can keep in touch.

We also need money, and lots of it if we are to cement ourselves firmly as New Zealand’s third political Party. We don’t have large corporate backers, so we need everything we can get. So even if you, the poor student, put the $2 you have in your pocket into one of our koha buckets tonight, you are still helping make a difference.

So what I am looking forward to? I’m looking forward to a great year. We will have good times, meet new people, and most importantly, increase the Green Party vote. Then we can get to work on creating a New Zealand we can all look forward to.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Shovelling s**t in Christchurch

Last Saturday, while visiting Christchurch, I decided to help out the Student Volunteer Army by pitching in on their final push to clear the silt. It's great that the volunteering spirit of helping others really comes to the fore in disasters - I just wish it was like that at all times.

I was assigned, with a group, a few properties along the river in New Brighton. Some of the places there have it really rough, with silt coming into their houses through their doors.

One of the places we helped out had a pile of small concrete blocks in their lounge, which used to make up their foundations. We helped them clear the blocks, leaving a big hole in the middle of the room. We then filled this hole with silt from the street, as it was similar to concrete, and would give them a smooth floor. No point in paying for concrete said the guy at the house, because all the houses in the area were in the red zone, so were due to be bulldozed in future anyway. The plan was to cover it in plastic, and put the carpet back on top.

Let's hope there's no more big ones for everyone's sake.

People in the worst affected areas are still very much doing it tough, still dealing with chemical toilets, a lot of dust, very bumpy roads, very little in the way of entertainment left, and of course fear of more quakes. There's a long road ahead.

The Canterbury quakes have underlined the importance of smart regulation, to ensure the land we build on, the buildings we build and the way we develop take into account more than just the short term gains of a developer. These quakes show how we've done some things right in the past, and other things we need to improve. Let us not forget these lessons.