Pay the polluter

'Pay the polluter' seems to be the New Zealand government's approach to dealing with climate change.
When the environment gets polluted, we all have to pay the costs:

  • global warming takes away land from everyone;
  • air pollution affects everyone who breathes the air;
  • water pollution affects everyone who drinks water, swims in a river, or even just visits a natural resource to see it.

However, the benefits associated with the pollution (for example, whatever was manufactured) go to the big companies who profit, and the anyone who buys the polluting products. It is therefore fair that the people who benefit from pollution pay everyone else to make up for the suffering. This creates a price signal to encourage environmental protection - cheaper goods have a lower impact on everyone else than more expensive goods, and budget producers will make cheaper and more environmentally friendly options.

It is purely right-wing spin that creating accurate price signals on goods will make things harder on ordinary people, or damage the economy, provided that the money collected goes back to everyone, and is not just distributed amongst the big companies.

The Kyoto protocol takes this to the global level, allowing for global trading, and so promises to solve climate change at a global level (except that the targets set by Kyoto are likely not to be ambitious enough to actually make enough of a difference).

However, the New Zealand government has decided that instead of making companies pay the full price of their emissions under Kyoto, it will subside them. This is essentially taking money from the poor, and giving it to the rich - a form of corporate welfare. This is nothing more than 'pay the polluter' dressed up in another form. The public will be paying billions of dollars a year in Kyoto fees to subsidise polluters, and the more they pollute, the more pollution they get subsidised for!

Come on National, stop giving hand-outs to big foreign owned companies, and start giving ordinary kiwis a fair deal!

Read more about climate change, the ETS, and what you can do: