When he attends the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi next week, what proposals will he put forward or support to encourage developing countries to accept obligations in the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol?
Climate change is a global problem that will have serious impacts on all countries. New Zealand supports broad and balanced participation in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone should play their part. The Nairobi conference is an early stage of global discussions on future commitments beyond 2012 to address climate change. New Zealand will support measures that advance meaningful progress.
When he says “broad and balanced”, does he agree with the principle that all people have an equal right to emit carbon into the atmosphere, and an equal responsibility to limit those emissions, a principle first put forward 10 years ago in the early Kyoto negotiations under the rather cumbersome title of “Contraction and Convergence”; if so, how will he be advocating that position at Nairobi?
I agree it would be unrealistic to expect developing countries with very low levels of emission to curb their emissions to far lower levels than industrialised countries, whilst expecting no greater efforts on the part of industrialised countries.
What is the Minister’s intended focus at bilateral meetings with Ministers of other countries at the Nairobi conference?
New Zealand is taking a lead in world-class research into reducing on-farm emissions from agriculture. My bilaterals with other countries will focus on improving international collaboration on this research, both because it is central to New Zealand’s interest, and because in helping ourselves we can also help the world beat climate change.
How does he reconcile the statement by the Prime Minister that it made sense to have a more bipartisan approach on the important issue of climate change, when at the four international climate change conferences in the 1990s, National invited and included Opposition representatives in the New Zealand delegations, and in 2001 and 2003 previous Labour climate change Ministers invited an Opposition representative, but in the latest conference in Nairobi he has chosen not to include any Opposition member; why there has been the change in approach?
It would be rather strange to expect us to invite a member to a conference on Kyoto who opposes it.
I seek leave of the House to table the letters from previous Labour climate change Ministers in both 2001 and 2003 when National’s position on climate change was no different, and also to note that this is the framework convention on climate change, which was initiated and signed by National when in Government.
Does the Minister agree that if New Zealand were to get even halfway to the Prime Minister’s goal of becoming carbon neutral, we would be in a very strong position to advocate for equal rights and obligations on a per capita basis, and that this would make it more likely that developing countries would take on climate change obligations too; and as well it would give us some credits to sell?
I am not sure I would want to either agree or disagree with that proposition, on the hoof. I would say that in addition to the environmental benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how that might also encourage developing countries to embrace some form of mitigation of their emissions, it would also be in New Zealand’s economic interests, because I am being told by New Zealand’s largest energy users that are multinationals, that their shareholders are telling them they should moderate their direct carbon emissions and their indirect energy-related emissions, because they see a future global cost to greenhouse gas emissions and think it is therefore in their shareholders’ interests to reduce emissions. I suggest that if that is correct for those companies, it is also true for our country.
Will New Zealand be arguing at Nairobi for international bunker fuel, which is used by aircraft and ships and is a substantial emitter of carbon, to be included in nations’ Kyoto commitments to close this huge loophole, and also to avoid distorting the economics of local versus international trade?
I do not think we are taking a specific position on that. I would say that it is less important than the wider issue. For example, the “food miles” debate that was run against New Zealand, and is indeed being run against New Zealand in Europe at the moment, suggests that those countries ought not to buy our products because of the miles they travel to get there, whereas in reality the emissions embedded in those products, even when delivered that long distance, are significantly lower than are embedded in their own local produce.