What recent reports, if any, has he received on increasing support for the Government’s climate change policies?
I have had reports that the Labour-led Government has gathered significant support for its approach to climate change. We welcome the consistent and principled support of the Greens, of United Future, and of the Māori Party. We also welcome the recent conversion of the National Party, which, despite stridently opposing the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill at its first reading, at the Commerce Committee, and during the election campaign, has done yet another flip-flop. Last night it supported the essentially unamended bill in its second reading in the House.
Can the Minister explain why the Government’s policies are garnering public support at this time?
Because they encourage Kiwis to do the sensible things they believe are good for them and our country: initiatives like improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles, improved insulation, and solar water heating, to name but three. The Permanent Forest Sink Initiative ties in with the policies the Government has in place to respond to climate change. That initiative will also improve water quality and give new business opportunities for landowners. If, however, the member is asking me how National could have credibly opposed that bill previously, I am afraid that I cannot supply the answer to that.
How can he claim that there is increased support for the Government’s climate change policies when everyone, from Government officials to Greenpeace to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, says that the Government has no policy and has no idea how it will meet its Kyoto Protocol targets, and when its key policies on the carbon tax, the “fart tax”, the energy efficiency strategy, the negotiated greenhouse agreements, and the projects to reduce emissions in forestry have all been put on hold or canned?
How that member would love that to be true and for the situation to be as grim as that. It is not. We are taking a principled approach to it. I remind the House—
I remind the House that in the first reading of the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill, John Key said: “I rise on behalf of the National Party to give the good news to the people of New Zealand—that is, the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill is a load of rubbish and the National Party will not be supporting it, for very, very good reasons indeed.” Well, it looks as though John Key is another member of the club of climate change “Donny-come-latelys”, or perhaps he is the next johnny-come-lately, but nevertheless, we welcome—
Would members please be silent. I cannot hear the answer to the question, I say to Dr Smith. So if that is his point of order—I do not want to pre-empt it, but if it is—I would ask the Minister to address the question without editorialising.
I will read from Hansard in respect of the first reading of the bill, when John Key said—
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Standing Order requires that the Minister address the question. I would love to quote the full brilliant speech of my colleague John Key, but that was not my question. My question was—and perhaps you would like me to repeat it—
—how can he claim that there is increased support for the Government’s climate change policies, when everyone, from his own officials to Greenpeace and even to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, says that the Government has no policy and has no idea how it will meet its Kyoto Protocol targets, and when its key policies on the carbon tax, the “fart tax”, the energy efficiency strategy, the negotiated greenhouse agreements, and the projects to reduce emissions in forestry have all been put on hold or canned?
The Minister’s reply was that in the previous reading Mr Key described the bill as very stupid and useless, etc., and that last night the Opposition voted for it. Therefore, of course, support for the Government’s policies has increased.
I think the Minister was attempting to address the question. If we have a new supplementary question, I call the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Could you clarify for me whether Dr Cullen is the “Minister of Everything” or whether David Parker is the Minister, because we on this side of the House are a bit confused.
That is not a point of order, as the member knows. The Minister was talking to the point of order. Would the member please be seated if he wishes to remain in this Chamber. The Minister was clarifying a point; it is not unusual to do so through points of order. Can we start again.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Smith has already had the number of supplementary questions that would require you to invite my colleague to ask the next supplementary question. I do not want to make a complaint here, but if I thought for a moment that someone regarded the National Party as having more rights than my party does, then I would protest. I am not at that point now, but I am just making the issue very clear that my colleague Peter Brown should be the next person to be called.
Will the Minister confirm that four of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions are the USA, China, India, and Australia, all of which are building, or planning to build, more coal-fired power stations, two of which will not sign the Kyoto Protocol, and the other two of which are exempt until 2012; if he does accept that, does he believe we must keep things in perspective and inform the public of New Zealand that anything we do down here will, on a global basis, have only a minimal effect?
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In relation to my colleague Nick Smith having his call taken away, I refer you to Speaker’s ruling 25/4—
Thank you very much. I do not need any assistance on this matter. I called the member; I saw him. The matter is over.
I agree with the member to the extent that it is true that countries like China and India are building thermal electricity generation capacity, and that in order for the world to get over the challenge of climate change, it will be necessary for countries like China and India to also moderate their emissions. None the less, it also remains true that countries like the United States are taking measures to reduce their emissions. Countries like New Zealand actually have higher emission rates than developing countries, and it is important that wealthy countries like ours do our bit.
If the Government’s policies on climate change have been so successful, why have New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions increased under this Government at a faster rate than that of any other OECD country, at three times the rate of Australia and at four times the rate of the United States, and why has New Zealand simultaneously achieved in 2005 the first year of net deforestation in 46 years; if that is success, for God’s sake will the Minister tell me what failure would look like?
One of the mains reasons why New Zealand’s emissions have grown since 1990 is that the thermal power capacity that the country had already built has been utilised more of the time, instead of New Zealand building more hydro capacity.
Has the Government, in developing its climate change policy, given any thought to a humanitarian resettlement plan for countries such as Tokelau, Tuvalu, and Kiribati, which are likely to disappear as sea levels rise; if so, what is that policy; if not, does the Minister agree that it needs to happen in association with our Pacific neighbours?
The Government is beginning to give consideration to those issues. They are still away from us in the future, but the Minister of Foreign Affairs is taxed with them. They are difficult issues; they are real, potential consequences of climate change. Indeed, recent reports out of both Australia and the United Kingdom are making increasing reference to the security implications of climate change if we do not get it under control, because the number of people who could be on the move worldwide, as a consequence of increases in sea levels, is measured in millions, not thousands.
I seek leave of the House to table the advice of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on 10 October this year, which states: “It is our view that there is currently a policy vacuum in climate change.”
Is the Minister aware of the repeated calls, particularly since March this year, of the climate change science community, the academic community, the non-governmental organisations, and the general public for this Parliament to reach a cross-party agreement on the fundamentals of climate change policy, so that we can take the country forwards rather than look backwards; if he is aware of that, what steps has he taken to attempt to reach some cross-party agreements, and what response has he had to his efforts?
Following the recent change of heart by the National Party in respect of climate change issues, those questions have been put to me both in the House and outside the House. I respond now, as I have responded previously: we believe we are developing sound policy in response to the climate change challenge. I think it reflects well on the National Party that it backed the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill yesterday in the House. I think we are getting closer to reaching agreement across the House as to what the appropriate price-based measures are in the electricity sector. I look forward to the contributions of all parties to the development of these policies, and, of course, to the processes of Parliament, including select committee processes and the very extensive consultation processes that we have running around these policies. Those avenues enable parties to come together.