Writing as a grindstone. Finished writing, unfinished writing, writing ideas, things that I'll never get round to writing, other things. Grinding it out, grinding away. Writing some more.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Emissions Trading Scheme and The Māori Party

I wrote this for school last year. Although it isn't topical now, I think it foreshadows some of the stuff that's happening (or not happening) with the Māori Party on the Takutai Moana bill.


Andrea Tunks describes the over-arching environmental aim of tangata whenua as the protection of Aotearoa, the Earth and the Earth's atmosphere in accordance with Maori Kaitiaki obligations (Tunks: 68). Māori often refer only to Papatūānuku when speaking of the need to protect the environment; the need to protect Ranginui, or the Earth's atmosphere, is just as important, and is often implied if not articulated. Climate change, in particular, is an issue caused by long-term degradation of Ranginui through industry emitting ever-larger quantities of greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases add to the greenhouse effect, trapping more heat in the atmosphere, which is available as energy in climate systems. Not only does the world climate become warmer, it becomes more extreme. Climate change has been on the political agenda for decades: in 1988, internationally the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change was established giving its first report in 1990, and locally the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment established a Climate Change Programme to investigate the science, impacts of and policies for addressing climate change. It is an issue that the Māori Party, along with most New Zealand political parties and scientific authorities, believes requires urgent attention.

After decades of talk and inaction, there has been a burst of activity in the last two years. The 2008 Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill gave a mechanism for responding to climate change. It created the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, which applied an economy-wide cost to activities that contribute to climate change, and benefit to activities that reduced or mitigated climate change. It was an all-sectors, all-gases response, meaning that when fully implemented it would apply across all sectors of the economy and all greenhouse gases. Just months after this scheme was announced (and one month after a change of Government), in December 2008 under the confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand National and the ACT New Zealand Party, the Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee was established to review that scheme. All political Parties in Parliament (excluding the Progressive Party) were represented on this Review Committee, including the Māori Party, represented by Rahui Katene. The Committee received submissions from nearly 300 organisations and individuals, 95 of which gave oral submissions. Advice was received from the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Specialist advice was purchased from Frazer Lindstrom Limited, PricewaterhouseCoopers and 37 degrees South.

The resulting report made recommendations about climate change responses to the Government. Four minority views were included in the report, one each from the Labour Party, Green Party, ACT New Zealand Party, and Māori Party. It is the latter view, which opposed an emissions trading scheme, and the Māori Party shift to supporting the specific emissions trading scheme proposed by the Government, that this essay will focus on.

Māori Party view

In 2008, Tariana Turia said of the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill:

“Fundamentally, the emissions trading scheme is limited by being nothing more than an emissions trading scheme, when what we really require is an emissions reduction programme … Reducing our emissions is about honouring our commitment to those who have passed on that we will leave this planet in a better state than it is now for those who come after us … To make the world a better place we need to live differently and we all need to live differently.” (Turia, 28/8/2008)

The Māori Party minority report in the Review of the Emissions Trading Scheme and Related Matters, 2009 reflected this position, stating that:

“the nation urgently needs to grapple with the notion of sustainability and the increasing challenge posed by a changing climate system and pending peak oil to think and live differently, to live sustainably.” (Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 114)

According to that document, the Māori Party was opposed to an emissions trading scheme as a mechanism for achieving this goal, for both fundamental and specific reasons, and preferred instead a carbon tax. The fundamental reason given for opposition was that an emissions trading scheme:

“allows sectors to pollute and trade up to the Kyoto target, but … does not include incremental emissions reduction targets in its design. With the emphasis on trading—establishing and maintaining the conditions for it—the overarching problem of unsustainable economic growth remains unaddressed.” (Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 113)

The Māori Party was opposed to this specific emissions trading scheme because of its relative ineffectiveness and inequalities, including the subsidisation of the nation's largest polluters at the cost of households and small-medium businesses.(Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee, p 113)

The report concludes that the Māori Party urge the government to develop a wide-ranging sustainability framework in which to consider policy development on climate change, renewable energy, transport, roading, industry, employment and so on, to best ensure our collective well being. Current and future Kyoto targets are a minimum response to addressing climate change. (Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 114)

Specific reasons for opposing an emissions trading scheme given in this report were (Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 113):

  • an Emissions Trading Scheme will not make a significant contribution to lowering our domestic emissions
  • the Māori Party was unconvinced that the market is the best mechanism to set prices on carbon
  • the current mode of living in developed countries is not sustainable into the future
  • The urgency of the climate-change crisis demands the development and implementation of an effective scheme that is not reliant on whether or when the price of carbon increases to a sufficient level to incentivise change.
  • intensity-based allocations and subsidies distort the market model by allowing businesses to increase their emissions without penalty, and be rewarded for it.

Reasons given in this report for preferring a carbon tax were (Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 114):

  • a carbon tax is simpler
  • a carbon tax provides certainty of price
  • if set high enough and applied to all sectors, a carbon tax incentivises polluters to change without the option of trading their way out and continuing with business as usual
  • tax revenue from a carbon tax could be used for research and policy development, assisting households and communities vulnerable to increased living costs from the scheme, and to offset health and environmental effects of global warming.

They state that the Māori Party remains deeply concerned that an ETS remains a stand-in for a more comprehensive climate change policy, and that complementary measures rely on the notion that scientific and technological innovation is capable of manipulating the environment to enable the nation to continue as we are. The resources of Papatuanuku are finite … The Māori Party strongly believes that more needs to be done. Instead of relying on carbon sinks from forestry or buying credits on the international market to achieve our targets, we need to be focused on decreasing domestic emissions. (Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 114)

This is a clearly and strongly stated commitment to the environment, to sustainable living, and to contributing to a global solution on climate change. It is an equally clearly and strongly stated opposition to an emissions trading scheme, with very specific and clearly articulated reasons. The Māori Party view is especially opposed to a less stringent version of an emissions trading scheme than the one in place at the time of the report. Turia's earlier statements opposing an emissions trading scheme show that the Māori Party had, until this point, maintained a consistent position that such a scheme was an insufficient response to climate change.

This report was completed August, 2009. In the week following completion, the Māori Party was attempting to change its minority view (submitted literally days earlier), delaying release of the report (see questions in Hansard 27/8/2009); by mid-September it was announcing its support for the National Party's revised emissions trading scheme. What made this turn-around most surprising was that the Māori Party had opposed the current emissions trading scheme because it was an inadequate and easily avoided response to greenhouse emissions, whereas the National Party's revisions are generally held to weaken the scheme (For example, The Press editorial, 19/09/2009).

How then did the Māori Party come to completely change their position? And given their statements about the ineffectiveness of the scheme to protect the environment, and their commitment to that environment, how are they justifying supporting the scheme proposed under the Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill?

The new Māori Party position

Changes to the Scheme

In speaking of the current scheme, the Māori Party said it continues to oppose the introduction of an ETS ... and would do so more strongly if a replacement scheme were to be less effective and more inequitable (Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 113). It is therefore useful to look at the changes proposed to the current emissions trading scheme by the National Party sponsored Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill, which the Māori Party supports, to see whether they make it more or less effective and equitable.

These changes are (Clark, Weeks, Nicholls, Bougen and Appleyard, 2009):

  • transport fuels will come into the scheme six months earlier (July 1, 2010)
  • electricity and industrial processes will come in six months later (July 1, 2010)
  • agriculture (New Zealand's largest contributor to greenhouse emissions) will come in two years later (January 1, 2015)
  • for 2½ years after entry (from July 1, 2010 to January 1, 2013), transport, energy and industrial sectors will only pay for 50% of their emissions, and (until at least January 1, 2013) the price will be capped at $25 per tonne (in its report, the Māori Party specifically opposed taxpayers subsidising the nation's largest polluters in this way (Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 113), and was concerned that price caps would be introduced without fixed end dates, as these are)
  • allocation of free units to trade exposed industry will be on an intensity basis (the Māori Party specifically opposed this in its report saying intensity based allocations distort the market model by allowing protected businesses to increase their emissions without penalty, and to be rewarded for it (Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 113))
  • free allocations will be phased out at 1.3% per year, down from 8.5% now.

All but the first of these changes lessen the effectiveness of the scheme in reducing emissions. In addition, two of these changes were opposed by the Māori Party in its minority view report because they were inequitable, transferring the cost of polluting from polluters to taxpayers. So the scheme the Māori Party supports should be less acceptable to it than the one it opposed. How do they explain this?

Flavell speech

On September 24, 2009, the Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Bill was presented to the House of Parliament for the first reading. Te Ururoa Flavell spoke on behalf of the Māori Party (as opposed to Rahui Katene who was both the Māori Party representative on the Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee, and the Māori Party spokesperson for the environment). In his speech, he re-iterated the commitment of the Māori Party to the preservation of our environment and the need to invest in ensuring that the finite resources of Papatūānuku are safeguarded, and many other statements made in the Māori Party minority view report. He also outlined the reasons the Māori Party felt able to support the first reading of this Bill.

The provisions that the Māori Party has had added to the Bill at this stage are:

  • an as yet undrafted amendment that will make specific reference to Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • a halving of the increased cost of petrol and electricity for the first 2½ years of the scheme.

In addition, there are many statements about possible results of negotiations. For example, Flavell (24/9/2009) says the Māori Party:
  • seeks an extension of the Government's energy efficiency assistance scheme, specifically targeted at low-income households
  • has come to the Government with some very specific proposals around afforestation and offsetting (where liabilities from deforestation can be offset against tree-planting elsewhere)
  • expect that the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group will play an ongoing role in international negotiations to allow for offsetting
  • expect that the possibility of a Crown and iwi partnership will be scoped
  • are arguing for the inclusion of post-1989 indigenous forests and the publishing of accurate tables of the carbon sequestered in them
  • argue that the Māori Party be actively engaged in ongoing dialogue on a broader environmental policy programme.

Rhetoric aside, it appears that the Māori Party has traded some economic help for the public, inclusion of a Treaty of Waitangi clause, and the promise of goodwill and future consideration on some issues, against a weaker response to climate change. In an October 18 interview speaking of this deal with the Government, Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia (18/10/2009) admits We haven't had a lot of concession.

There are several things that make this even more surprising. First, the one unarguable concession is the reduction in increased cost of petrol and electricity. The Māori Party was opposed to subsidies and price-caps for industry because they are unfair and inequitable, transferring the cost of pollution to the public. Presumably, the subsidies on petrol and electricity are considered to offset this, making the proposed scheme more equitable. However, the public will still pay in taxes for the subsidies to industry, as well as those on petrol and electricity. Although it looks like an economic gain for households, the money must come from somewhere—either increased taxes, or reduced services. It is unlikely that a National Government will spare this burden from low-income earners.

Second, with very little change to the wording and none to the substance, Flavell's speech could easily have been a list of reasons why the Māori Party are unable to support this Bill. There are so many expectations and ongoing negotiations listed, all of which must represent shortcomings of the proposed scheme from the Māori Party perspective. It has been the experience of Māori to sign many documents on the understanding that beneficial provisions or improvements would be added later, and for those benefits to never eventuate. Rather than completing discussions so they are sure of what they are voting for, the Māori Party acted quickly to support the Bill. They have no guarantees of what the Government will concede. Presumably, this haste was because of the Government's desire to have the Bill enacted prior to the United Nations Conference in Copenhagen in December this year. It may be in the Government's interests, in terms of international moral high ground and grandstanding, to rush an agreement on this Bill, but I cannot understand how it is beneficial to the Māori Party. There is already an emissions trading scheme in place, and one which is more inclined towards the environment and Māori Party principles. In addition, without the support of the Labour Party there will not be a broad consensus on the Bill, so there is nothing to be gained in terms of certainty and security by supporting the Government's proposals. It therefore seems that the Māori Party was in a very strong position to negotiate for improvements, or to reject the scheme. I cannot understand why this did not translate to more concrete improvements in the Bill. Unless as a result of consultation, the Māori Party was not seeking such improvements.

Consultation with Māori on Emissions Trading Scheme

Climate change has been seriously on the international political agenda for around 20 years, but it is only in the last few years that there has been any urgency in responding.

In 2002, the Government passed the Climate Change Response Act to enable New Zealand to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. On December 18, 2006, the Government released a number of documents that contained information on New Zealand's options for responding to climate change. Despite the slow progress to this point, the huge amount of information in these documents, and the importance and wide-ranging implications of the proposals, the Government gave an extremely short timeframe for consultation. They organised eleven regional consultation hui with Māori, from 12 February, 2007 until 14 March 2007, with a twelfth hui added on 29 March 2007. This meant that participants at the early hui had less than 2 months (including Christmas/ New Year) to read, understand and consult on the documents the Government had given them. At each hui, attendees were required to discuss the information and elect a single representative to a Climate Change Māori Reference Group for a final consultative hui on 21 March 2007. Submissions were due by 30 March 2007. (Ministry for the Environment, 2007)

In July 2007, the Māori Reference Group met with Ministers David Parker, Michael Cullen and Parekura Horomia to hear the Government response to their submission, and decided to establish an executive group (the Māori Reference Group Executive) (1). The following day, Ministers Cullen, Horomia and Jim Anderton met with "a collective of iwi leaders" (Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group and Māori Reference Group Executive, 2008) to outline the Government's preferred response to climate change. From this collective, a leadership group was established, which included Apirana Mahuika, Paul Morgan, Timi Te Heuheu, and later Mark Solomon. (2) This was initially called the Climate Change Māori Leadership Group, but has since been changed to the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group (and is usually now referred to as simply the Iwi Leadership Group, speaking on issues less directly related to climate change). This Group organised a National Māori Climate Change Hui in Rotorua in October 2007, with three subsequent hui in November, December and February held in Hamilton and Wellington. At each of the hui organised by iwi leaders, the Iwi Leadership Group and the Māori Reference Group Executive were supported unanimously, as well as at two meetings of iwi leaders in February 2008. A statement in a letter to Ministers Cullen, Anderton, Horomia, Nanaia Mahuta, Trevor Mallard and Parker dated 13 December 2007 from the Iwi Leadership Group in response to an Officials' Report is telling:

"… we have advocated on two platforms. The first platform is the Treaty of Waitangi and the second is the Māori Economy. Due to the tight timeframes and the economic nature of the ETS, we have focussed on the economic impacts."(Mahuika, 2007)

The Iwi Leadership Group and Māori Reference Group Executive gave a joint submission on the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on 29 February 2008. It is implied in statements from the Māori Party that the Iwi Leadership Group has been actively lobbying both the Māori Party and the Government prior to and since the last election (eg, Turia, 18/10/2009 ). Although the Māori Party is not willing to talk about its relationship with, or the effect of lobbying by, the Iwi Leadership Group, their positions on an emissions trading scheme are now very closely aligned.

To summarise the Government consultation process with Māori:

  • consultation has been organised by the Government on their terms
  • from the beginning, the Government has imposed unrealistic timeframes for Māori to understand all the issues and implications, to discuss widely and form opinions on this, and to communicate these to the Government
  • at all of the first twelve consultation hui, participants were concerned that:
    the focus of an emissions trading scheme was too strongly on economics at the expense of the environment (with environmental benefits unclear), the Treaty, and a Māori world view and broad tikanga approach;
    there was no obvious way for Māori to have meaningful input; and
    that it was inequitable with no analysis of the effects on Māori, and our largest and richest industries protected from the cost of their polluting that we instead pay for
    (These criticisms are very similar to the original Māori Party report.)
  • at each stage, groups have become smaller and less representative:
    by requiring the consultation hui to elect only one representative each to form a group that was to represent all Māori (without the time to make this possible),
    by reducing that group to an executive (presumably because of commitments and time constraints), and
    by the role of the Iwi Leadership Group
  • despite the feedback from the consultation hui that the focus was too economic, for whatever reason at each stage these groups have focused more on economics and less on the other concerns (environment, Māori worldview, Treaty relationships), culminating in the Māori Party completely changing its policy at the request of the Iwi Leadership Group

It appears to me that the twelve consultation hui in February and March 2007 and the Māori Party minority view report both reflected a Māori worldview. Both were asking for less focus on the economic impacts of responding to climate change, and more focus on our responsibilities to the environment and tangata whenua. The framework and timeframe the Government set for consultation meant that, no matter how well-intentioned or well-resourced officials were, meaningful engagement was impossible. Instead, Māori who attended consultation hui were forced to delegate responsibility to those with the most knowledge of the proposals. These few seem to have focussed only on the economic effects of the proposed scheme, rather than a wider look at the issues. One reason for this may be because those involved in the Iwi Leadership Group and the Māori Reference Group Executive felt that there was no time to include the issues raised at earlier stages of consultation. Another may be that it did not suit their specific interests to look at these issues. Either way, their failure to represent Māori concerns, for example, about the exclusion of Māori values, has given the Government a mandate and excuse to weaken a scheme that many argued was already an inadequate response to climate change. And the Māori Party has followed their lead.

In response to a question about what the Māori Party want in return for supporting the Bill, Turia (18/10/2009) replied: in the end, it's not so much particularly what the Māori Party want, it is what the Iwi Leadership want, and they are the ones who have been leading the dialogue, they have been asking us to definitely sign up for it.


The Māori Party campaigns under its kaupapa: rangatiratanga, kaitiakitanga, kotahitanga. Voters are told not to worry about policy details, everything is analysed according to these kaupapa (Fox, 2008). The Iwi Leadership Group is lobbying both Government and the Māori Party for Māori economic interests on behalf of Māori corporates. Turia's statement above shows clearly that the Māori Party has been captured by this Group. Who then is representing non-economic, kaupapa Māori concerns, especially on an issue as important as climate change? If we are expected to trust that the Māori Party is acting according to its kaupapa, then they should at least be helping us by speaking openly about such a massive change in policy direction.

Climate change is an issue that has been neglected for want of political leadership for decades. In the meantime, we are contributing more and more greenhouse gases every year. The Māori Party minority view report reflected Māori concern about this lack of action, commitment and leadership. Participants at the consultation hui with Māori from the start of 2007 were clear that climate change as a result of atmospheric pollution is an issue they have been aware of for a long time, and the Government's response is too little too late. It is sad that by engaging in a consultation process that could never allow their concerns to be heard, those participants have given a mandate to a policy that most did not agree with. The involvement and pressure from the Iwi Leadership Group ironically destroyed any chance of Māori showing leadership on this issue. The Iwi Leadership Group are lobbying for rushing this Bill into legislation so they will have certainty in their financial planning. This is not leadership, it is following the Government's lead and playing by the Government's rules. There is no rush. There is already legislation in place that arguably provides more protection for the environment than the Bill they support. What is needed is education allowing informed discussion and analysis of what response is most appropriate according to Māori values. That would take leadership. And one day, it might even lead to a proper negotiation.

Flavell, Te Ururoa 24/9/2009 Speech to Parliament

Fox, Derek 2008 Māori Party election campaign speech, Victoria University

Turia, Tariana 28/8/2008 Speech to Parliament

Turia, Tariana 18/10/2009 Interview with Guyon Espiner, TVNZ

New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee (2009) Review of the Emissions Trading Scheme and Related Matters. House of Representatives, Wellington

New Zealand Ministry for the Environment (2007) Consultation with Māori on Climate Change: Hui Report. Ministry for the Environment, Wellington

The Press 19/09/2009 Editorial: Maori Party support for emissions trading scheme comes at a cost. The Press, Christchurch

Tunks, A (1997) "Tangata Whenua Ethics and Climate Change" Journal of Environmental Law 67

Clark, L, T Weeks, A Nicholls, C Bougen, J Appleyard 15/9/2009 "The ETS deal – pure politics” (accessed 9/10/2009)

Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group & Climate Change Māori Reference Group Executive 29/2/2008 Submission on Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill to the Finance and Expenditure Committee

Mahuika, Apirana (for and on behalf of the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group) 13/12/2007 Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group Response to Officials Report

1. I have no information on the reason for this, but I expect it was in response to the decision to continue to meet, which required an ongoing commitment. It seems likely that some members were more available or interested than others.
2. Although all references to this group say it 'includes' these four men, I have found no evidence that it includes anyone else.


  1. Great article Kim ... Well done

    Mike Smith

  2. thanks for posting this's very informative and helps confirm some things I already suspected about this bill.

  3. Excellent article Kim :)

    Gary Cranston

  4. Jax Ihaia6:44 pm

    Hey Kim. Wha waho lol kua tutuki.. ka mutu pea lol... i liked the last few lines especially haha nah delivered a few 'ahh' moments for me.. however gloomy always enjoy being informed lol Tau Ke!

  5. Anonymous4:56 pm

    that's really informative! however, i dont think its fair to say that the maori reference group has failed to represent Maori concerns - as you noted, they were unanimously endorsed at several national hui.