Monday, July 19, 2010

Politicians looking at big picture on ETS Carbon Trading Scheme

I have come to realise there are two types of reality - there is the real world, in which you and I struggle to survive each day, and then there is the world inhabited by politicians and the vast industry that feeds on them.

The latest manifestation of the dynamics of these two worlds is the emissions trading scheme. The ETS is seen by one world as another unwanted tax and by the other as an international obligation.

The Government has tried to downplay the effects of the ETS on households, but frankly I do not believe it.

I am sure the flow-on effect of fuel and power rises on businesses will add up to more than the $3.17 a week costs increase we have been told to expect.

The fact is the voting public feels aggrieved. Even though these voters do not have a viable alternative to turn to on this issue, this is hardly desirable for the Government.

The ill-feeling over one policy could spread to others, who knows?

Behind the dissatisfaction with the ETS is the uncertainty around climate change. Is it real, or not? The public doesn't know what to think.

Conditioned to respect science, most people accepted the initial reports of doom and gloom. But it now appears they were too gloomy and contained flaws.

That is the voters' world. But in the politicians' world it is different.

Internationally, the decisions have been made. Climate change is real and a way has been found to deal with it.

The ETS has been formulated and is locked in place. We can't back out.

We could have waited, as Australia has, but we are different from other countries.

We depend on trade to survive and we have taken a strong marketing stance based on being "100 per cent pure". We have to be seen to be acting as our customers would want us to.

To keep making money from our exports, which pay for our standard of living, we have to accept a little pain. That's the reality the politicians would have us accept. And it is the one I believe is right.

But some interesting new research has made me re-examine that belief.

The researchers asked people in British supermarkets about their purchases - specifically, whether their decisions were made on where the food item originated.

Then they went out into the high street and asked people if food miles - the distance food has to travel - would stop them buying New Zealand produce.

The results were fascinating.

Of the shoppers, only 5.6 per cent nominated country of origin as one of the reasons for purchasing an item and only 3.6 per cent indicated they had consciously chosen British products for the reason that such produce was "less harmful for the environment".

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