It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.
Chris Hedges

Sunday, September 14, 2008

ETS - Money Trees

Market driven solutions to climate control and pollution will never work. If someone had dreamed up carbon credit trading as the answer to global warming 30 years ago, it may have had some impact on the number of trees we cut down, but I think it would have only dictated 'where' those trees got axed.
The surest barometer of how effective New Zealand's Emission Trading Scheme, ETS, will work is how willing the New Zealand government has been to give the forests back to Maori. Far North's Iwi are currently negotiating a return of their forests in the Aupouri Peninsula.
The Crown Forestry Rental Trust, current-day Tane Mahuta's, see the writing on the wall and are working overtime to get a deal done before parliament dissolves on October 3rd. They have thrown a quarter of a million dollars at the Te Hiku o Te Ika forum to enable Iwi negotiators to earn while doing the deal, as well as a $36k+ honorarium to chairperson Mangu Awarau, to ensure a proper result. That honorarium was a Crown Forestry Rental Trust add-on, that nobody asked for.
The forests are indeed an asset, but their value will now be dictated by their value as carbon credits in an imaginary marketplace. Converting forestry lands to other use will cost future owners dearly. In reality, the land will be held hostage to tree-making so long as the land is held in trust. It can only be converted to other use when it is transferred back to Maori and that use will have to be profitable enough to offset the penalties of cutting down the trees for the last time. The 'x-factor' of the value of carbon credits is an unknown. Carbon-credit trading is a speculators playground like the companies that went bust a short while ago. Common sense says that if solid markets like mortgage and loan companies can fail in today's economy, what hope is there for carbon credits that have yet to have any established value.
So who benefits? Since anything that can be sold or traded is taxed, the government always wins. Since title to the forests could only be transferred to Maori anyway, at least in the first instance, the real question is: Why is everyone, including Maori, in such a rush to settle, when the implications of a deal are so unclear?
The biggest question is who is pushing the deal and why.

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