What is the estimated cost of New Zealand’s Kyoto liabilities for the first commitment period taking into account the latest advice from officials that “forest owners intend to deforest about 47,000 hectares during the first Kyoto commitment period (2008-2012). If this level of deforestation occurs, it will add around 32 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to New Zealand’s deficit (in effect nearly doubling it).”?
On 19 December 2005 the Government was advised that under current policy settings, projected deforestation during the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period is likely to total 47,000 hectares. The effect of this is to bring the projected first commitment period liability to $562 million under present policy settings. These settings include a 21 million tonne carbon dioxide equivalent cap on deforestation.
How can the Government rely on a cap on deforestation for limiting the liability when the Minister of Forestry, Jim Anderton, has told the forestry industry that it will not happen and that there is no Government mechanism by which such a limit could be put in place?
I understand that what the Minister has said, what I have said, and what my spokespeople have said is that the cap on deforestation liabilities is not under consideration for removal without other policy. That is correct. What should happen to the cap, or, indeed, forest-sink policy, remains a live issue.
What steps is the Government taking to update climate change - related policy settings?
In December 2005 Cabinet made a number of decisions to progress the future of climate change policy to address the projected deficit. Officials will be reporting back with policy options across 15 subject areas, which will be advanced by Cabinet in the coming months.
How can the Minister tell the House that the Kyoto liability, as a consequence of the doubling of the carbon deficit, is now $562 million, when his predecessor told a select committee on 16 June—when he admitted to a 36 million tonne deficit—that the liability would be about a billion dollars; even in elementary mathematics, if the carbon limit has doubled then would we not expect the deficit to be about $2 billion?
The calculations as to the projected liability during the first commitment period are made by Treasury applying financial reporting standards based on projections. The reason for the change is that the projection changed and Treasury, applying financial reporting standards, accordingly made the adjustment to the Crown books.
Does the Minister agree that the fastest-growing contribution to greenhouse gas emissions has been from road transport; if so, will he be talking to Nick Smith about speaking to his colleague Maurice Williamson in relation to his focus on building new motorways—reflected in question No. 10—rather than a focus on public transport, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
The Minister obviously has no responsibility for National Party communications.
I agree that one area of emissions that has been growing quickly is transport emissions, which is in large part a reflection of the high rate of growth we have had in New Zealand and, therefore, the increase in people’s ability to travel. I also agree with the member that part of the way in which we need to address transport emissions is with a continuing focus on public transport. But I disagree with any proposition that says we should not spend more money on roads as well.
Who is responsible for the policy mess over Kyoto that has seen this Government propose then abandon a “fart tax”; propose then abandon a carbon tax; set up an emissions reduction programme then abandon it; do two backward flips on the carbon balance for New Zealand; and now accept that its Kyoto policies are causing excessive deforestation—who is responsible for this extraordinary mess in an important area of public policy?
By far and away the largest cause of deforestation is the relative economics of forestry now compared with 10 years ago. It is not driven primarily by Kyoto policy.
I seek the leave of the House to table the report of the Auditor-General and the transcript of the select committee in which it was revealed that the Government had breached the Public Finance Act in not disclosing last year the extent of its Kyoto liabilities.
Has the Minister had any approaches from Dr Nick Smith seeking to develop a bipartisan policy on this matter; if so, does he see any indication of that in his question line today?
Yes, I have, although in fairness I would note that they are at a very preliminary stage and may come to nought.
Does the Minister accept the Auditor-General’s advice that the Government last year broke the law—notably the Public Finance Act—in respect of the declaration of liabilities from the Kyoto Protocol; and, if it did break the law, who was responsible for that?