Friday, 19 September 2008

RAM asks CTU for democratic debate & vote on 'pollution market'

Residents Action Movement Media release 5 September 2008 Over the last four years, RAM (Residents Action Movement) has been campaigning for free and frequent public transport in main centres. "Free and frequent trains and buses, funded by a switch of government money from highways and car tunnels, is a boldly realistic policy in an era of global warming, peak oil and traffic jams," said Roger Fowler, RAM's transport speaker. "This one policy change would do far more to tackle carbon emissions than the entire Emissions Trading Scheme being driven by the Labour, Green and NZ First parties. And it would keep more money in the pockets of workers." "It is very disappointing to see the Green politicians supporting Labour's drive to pass the ETS legislation," says Elliott Blade, RAM's environmental co-speaker and parliamentary candidate for Maungakiekie. "This law will establish a pollution market in New Zealand where corporations make money out of global warming while life-threatening emissions keep on rising." Like RAM, the Maori Party has come out strongly against the ETS. Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell told Parliament on 2 September that, in addition to Treaty of Waitangi concerns over the ETS, the Maori Party opposes the scheme because:
  • It would not be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It is "not transparent".
  • "Polluters do not pay", but instead receive massive subsidies that amount to "corporate welfare".
  • Therefore the stated aim of economic incentives to cut emissions is "defeated".
"The Maori Party's exposure of the ETS makes them the foremost ecological party in the current Parliament," says Michelle Ducat, environmental co-speaker for RAM. "The mantle of ecological guardian has slipped from the shoulders of the Green Party onto the Maori Party." Meanwhile the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) has come out with qualified support for the ETS. On 2 September, CTU economist Peter Conway said that climate change policy should "not rely too substantially on market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading". However, Mr Conway flagged CTU support for the ETS "compromise" reached between Labour, NZ First and the Greens, including the one-off electricity rebate to all households in 2010 and the one-off cash payment to beneficiaries, seniors and low-wage workers. While admitting that "this bill is not perfect", Mr Conway claimed "the risks of not taking concrete steps outweigh any disadvantages". RAM has serious concerns about the CTU's stance on the politics of global warming and how the ETS will impact on workers. "The CTU is giving shame-faced support to a pollution market which will reward polluters for trading in greenhouse gas emissions. This is not an effective challenge to global warming. The government needs to urgently legislate mandatory targets directing corporate polluters to clean up their act," said Oliver Woods, co-leader of RAM's candidates group and parliamentary candidate for Auckland Central. "The one-off payments under the new-look ETS will go nowhere near to compensating workers for unfair cost increases heaped on them so that corporations can profit from trading in pollution," noted Grant Brookes, co-leader of RAM's candidates group and parliamentary candidate for Wellington Central. "By backing the ETS, the CTU seems to be acting against the best interests of its own members." "Already some unionists are questioning whether the CTU's stance has more to do with backing Labour in an election year rather than protecting workers and the environment. The best way for the CTU to answer these questions would be to allow all sides of the debate to be presented to their 350,000 members and ask them to reach a collective decision," said Mr Brookes. RAM is calling on the CTU to widely circulate the Maori Party's views on the ETS. "The Maori Party is the only party in Parliament criticising the concept of a pollution market," says Grant Morgan, chair of RAM. "National and Act support a pollution market, merely wanting it to deliver even more corporate welfare to the polluters than the current ETS." "On behalf of RAM, I have requested the CTU leadership to publicise the Maori Party and RAM's criticisms of the ETS within their affiliate unions so more than one side of the story is heard by workers," said Mr Morgan. "I have also requested the CTU to promote a broad debate inside its affiliated unions in a lead-up to a democratic vote by workers about whether or not they should support a pollution market."

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