Hot Air: Corporate Corruption New Zealand-Style

Hot Air: Climate Change Politics in New Zealand

Directed by Alistair Barry Abi King-Jones (2013)

Film Review

This documentary left me with a sick, futile feeling about the hopelessness of real democracy occurring any time soon in New Zealand. It tells the really sad tale of wealthy business interests aggressively blocking meaningful action on emissions reduction for over 30 years.

I was previously unaware that in 1990 the incoming National (conservative) government set a target of reducing NZ’s carbon emissions by 20% in 10 years. Alarmed by data being released by international climate scientists, National’s Minister of the Environment Simon Upton persuaded cabinet to agree to a $10/tonne carbon tax. His plan was to implement the tax in 1997, if polluting industries failed to achieve voluntary emissions targets.

In 1993, Upton established a board of inquiry to hear the resource consent for the Stratford (Taranaki) Power Station. The final consent mandated that Electrocorps plant 5,000 trees per year to mitigate the additional CO2 emissions produced by the power station. Not a single tree would be planted, after  Taranaki Regional Council used their powers under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to remove this stipulation.

When Upton launched the Working Group on Climate Policy (WOGOCOP), New Zealand’s Business Roundtable (under the guidance of Carter Holt Harvey*) quietly arranged for US climate denier Fred Singer (to to tour New Zealand.

The company’s next move was to form the Greenhouse Policy Coalition with New Zealand Steel, Coldco (a company specializing in refrigeration which has since been liquidated), Melbourne Cement and the New Zealand Oil Refining Company. Through massive lobbying, this Coalition successfully blocked each and every regulation aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

By 1996, when New Zealand enacted an MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) voting system, New Zealand’s per capita carbon emission were 7% higher than 1990 (and higher than most other industrialized countries).

In 1997 New Zealand signed the Kyoto treaty, committing New Zealand to reduce carbon emissions 5% from 1990 levels by 2012. It would be two years before Parliament ratified the treaty, after a Labour-led coalition under Helen Clark assumed control of government. At this point, the dairy cooperative Fontera and Tiwai Point aluminum manufacturer joined the pro-corporate Greenhouse Policy Commission in commissioning a statistically flawed Institute of Economic Research study. It claimed a carbon tax would reduce New Zealand GDP by 1%.

Under the New Labour government, Contact Energy received approval for a new gas-fired power plant and Genesis Energy a permit to increase coal burning (and carbon emissions) at their Huntley power plant. During the same period, Fonterra massively increased their use of coal (and their emissions) to dry milk solids (for export to China).

In 2005, New Zealand’s richest man Graeme Hart bought Carter Holt Harvey and began pulling down the company’s forests to replace them with dairy farms. Under Kyoto, this represented a potential cost to NZ taxpayers of $68 million (for disestablishing the carbon credits they had committed to).

Until 2006 when Al Gore released his film The Inconvenient Truth, Labour Environment Minister Pete Hodgson essentially carried the climate change issue alone – with the Green Party, Greenpeace, and other New Zealand environmental groups only signing on after 2006.

In lieu of a carbon tax, the Labour-led coalition, with the support of the National Party, opted to join the global Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)* in in 2008. The same year, National would resume control of government, withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.


*Carter Holt Harvey specializes in forest plantation management and timber production.

**Under NZ’s ETS, the biggest polluters (outside of agriculture, which is exempt), can purchase credits to produce carbon emissions by investing in carbon sequestration schemes in the Third World. It has proved totally useless in preventing the continuing rise of our country’s carbon emissions. See link The Carbon Trading Racket

The film can be viewed free at https://www.hotairfilm.co.nz/

The Carbon Trading Racket

The Carbon Rush

Directed by Amy Miller (2012)

Film Review

This documentary is about the $300 billion carbon trading racket (aka the Emissions Trading Scheme) in which carbon polluters in industrialized countries buy permits to pollute from various corporate and and NGO scams that allegedly sequester carbon. Over 5,000 projects are registered with the UN carbon market initiated under the 1992 Kyoto Accord.

The filmmakers interview Third World residents and activists about the devastating effect of these schemes on their communities.

Brazil

Filmmakers visit several communities where multinational corporations have deprived subsistence farmers off their land to build giant eucalyptus plantations. The trees are harvested to make charcoal used to produce pig iron. Because the eucalyptus charcoal is ultimately burned (producing CO2), there is no net reduction in carbon emissions. Yet several dozen of these plantations scattered across the third world are authorized to sell carbon credits to First World polluters.

Delhi

One to two hundred thousand informal waste pickers essential to India’s recycling industry are losing their jobs to Refuse Driven Fuel (RDF) incinerators. The latter burn unsorted rubbish to produce electricity. Despite research showing that waste pickers are nine time more efficient than incinerators in reducing CO2 emissions, the multinationals running the incinerators are allowed to sell carbon credits for operating them. This despite fierce opposition by local residents due to the incinerators’ failure to filter toxic pollutants. There are several dozen RDFs selling carbon credits across the Third World.

Maharashta (India)

The Indian government has colluded with Tata Motors and various multinationals to force  subsistence farmers off their land to build a 1,000 turbine wind. The latter produces carbon credits to a Norwegian Mega Mall. Similar mega-turbine projects generate carbon credits across the global South.

Chiriqui (Panama)

The Panamanian government is collaborating with multinationals and the World Bank to illegally install 160 hydroelectric dams on indigenous land. Despite environmental devastation that has transformed thousands of hectares of land into desert, the corporations earn millions by selling carbon credits for building and operating the dams.

Aquan Valley (Honduras)

Following the 2009 coup,* the new right wing government allowed multinationals to clear cut old growth forest and displace subsistence farmers to build massive palm oil plantations for biofuel production. Despite clear evidence that replacing old growth forest and stable savanna with palm oil plantation increases, rather than decreases, CO2 emissions, a number of similar plantations throughout the the Third World are authorized to sell carbon credits.

The full film can be seen free at

https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the-carbon-rush-documentary/