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Business Climate Change Dialogue—Cross-party Agreement

Thursday 7 September 2006 Hansard source (external site)

Fitzsimons1. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) Link to this
to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues

What prospect does he see, following this morning’s Business Climate Change Dialogue, for a cross-party agreement on addressing climate change, an agreement that would place a price on carbon to give investment certainty to business?

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

I have in my hand the answer to question for oral answer No. 1, delivered to me by the Government earlier, so I seek leave to table David Parker’s responses to Jeanette Fitzsimon’s questions. She may as well just read them, given that we have them here.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) Link to this

We welcome the Hon Dr Nick Smith’s announcement this morning that the National Party now accepts that climate change is occurring and requires a Government response to help New Zealanders reduce emissions.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

Thank you, Mr Brownlee. This contrasts with recent statements made by senior shadow Ministers in the National caucus, and we welcome—

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister was not asked about National’s position, or even—and you have ruled this may be asked—about what reports he had seen that might allow Labour to get into misrepresenting National’s position. That was not the tone of the question, so the Minister is going way outside his ministerial responsibilities—albeit if it were the Minister’s wish, I would be happy to take leave and explain National’s exact position on those important issues.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

The question asked what prospect I saw of a cross-party agreement, and, obviously, the answer I am giving relates to that prospect.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

I think that is correct, so would the Minister please continue.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

So we are pleased to see that the National Party now accepts that climate change is occurring and that a Government response to curb emissions is required. That contrasts with recent statements by senior shadow Ministers in National’s own caucus. We would welcome any party getting behind the comprehensive programme for responding to climate change that we have under way.

FitzsimonsJeanette Fitzsimons Link to this

Does the Minister see a possible way forward in the Swiss approach outlined by the Swiss Ambassador at this morning’s meeting—a system combining both a carbon levy paid back to the public in other ways, which Labour has advocated in the past, and a carbon trading system, as advocated by Nick Smith and the National Party; if so, how could that combined option be explored?

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If you would like to know what the supplementary question was so that you can rule on whether it is in order, we have the bit of paper here. Clearly, the supplementary question sent to David Parker’s office, or perhaps from David Parker’s office to Jeanette Fitzsimons’ office, is not in order.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Is the member seeking leave to table that document?

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

No, they have got it. It is actually their document.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Then that is not a point of order.

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

It is a point of order.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Well, it is not a valid point of order.

BrownleeGerry Brownlee Link to this

The question is not in order. We would like you to rule on it.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

The question is in order. Would the member read the question again, please.

FitzsimonsJeanette Fitzsimons Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I can respond to that by informing the House that no questions passed from my office to the Minister’s office, or from the Minister’s office to mine. I do not know which piece of paper the member has, but it was not a communication written between the Minister’s office and my office.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

We have had a clarification of that. We will now proceed. Would the member ask her question again, so that I can assess whether it is an appropriate question.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given that there has been some question as to the authenticity of the document, I seek leave again to table the question from Jeanette Fitzsimons and the pre-prepared answers from Mr Parker.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

FitzsimonsJeanette Fitzsimons Link to this

Does the Minister see a possible way forward in the Swiss Government’s approach outlined by the Swiss Ambassador at this morning’s meeting—a system combining both a carbon levy paid back to the public in other ways, as Labour used to advocate, and a carbon trading system, as advocated by Nick Smith and the National Party on various occasions; if so, how could that combined option be explored?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

I do see possibilities in that. As the member is aware, the Government is presently consulting on a range of policy options under consideration. Those include a variety of sectoral measures and the possibility of post-2012 price-based measures across the economy, and I am sure that that particular idea can be considered, too.

BrownPeter Brown Link to this

Is it true that the carbon dioxide equivalents that emanate from New Zealand are so low in total they do not even register on the global model?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

It is true that New Zealand’s emissions represent 0.2 percent of the world’s emissions, because our population is less than 0.2 percent of the world’s population. It is also true that New Zealand’s emissions on a per capita basis are about the eleventh-highest in the worth. It is also true that for the world to get on top of climate change challenges, every part of the world has to do its bit.

FitzsimonsJeanette Fitzsimons Link to this

Does the Minister agree with Tom Campbell, the chief executive of Comalco, who said at this morning’s gathering that any new deployment of coal should be delayed until carbon capture and storage are fully commercialised; if so, will he commit to climate change policy that allows no new coal combustion until carbon capture and storage have been proven to work reliably in the long term and are available on the market?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

Final decisions on that have not been taken, but I do agree with the proposition that if New Zealand wants to do its bit to help the world to overcome climate change problems, it would be a strange policy outcome if our greenhouse gas emissions climbed as a consequence of large additional amounts of coal-fired generation.

MackeyMoana Mackey Link to this

Has the Minister received any conflicting reports on the need to deal with climate change?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

Yes, I have received reports that a member of the National Party has said that climate change is just a bit of climate variability, and that he, for one, would like to see a bit more heat to make the grass grow, and would not mind a bit more of a sea-level rise, either. That member was Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith, representing the National Party at a Royal Society of New Zealand presentation on climate change in Parliament. National needs to come clean about where it really stands on climate change.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

Noting that the Government has been in office now for 7 years, has had to do a U-turn on the animal emissions levy, has done a U-turn on the carbon tax, has had an energy efficiency strategy that is in tatters, has made a billion-dollar bungle on New Zealand’s climate change position, and has had to drop its policy in respect of the reduction in emissions projects, can the Minister tell the House exactly what this Government’s climate change policy is—or is it, as all the commentators say, a complete vacuum?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

I will make two points. Firstly, parts of the climate change policy have been very successful. Notably, the projects to reduce emissions, which were overseen by the Hon Pete Hodgson, brought forward the development of wind-power generation, which does not produce climate change emissions. New Zealand now has a future where we can deploy more wind generation cost-effectively, without carbon emissions. I also make the point, in relation to the animal emissions levy, that Dr Smith—[ Interruption]

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

No, I cannot hear, and the member who asked the question did ask for an answer. Would the Minister please continue.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

Madam Speaker—[ Interruption]

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

I am sorry; please be seated. As I said, interjections are permitted, but we do need to hear how the Minister is addressing the question.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

It is ironic that Dr Smith, this morning and today, has referred to the animal emissions levy. He complained—

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was very straightforward: what is the Government’s policy on climate change? Commentators say that it is a vacuum. It is very simple for the Minister to answer. I ask him to please tell us what it is. I know what my policy is, and I am happy to answer questions on that. National is happy to do that. He is the Minister, so he should simply tell the House the Government’s climate change policy.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Well, the Minister is attempting to do that. Would the Minister please continue.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

It is ironic that the member talks about the animal emissions levy. He mentioned that this morning, as well. He complained that we as a Government were not spending enough on it, when he as a member politicked against it under the label of the “fart tax”.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have listened to the Minister’s answer carefully. I am yet to hear from this Government Minister what the Government’s climate change policy is. I have heard nothing yet, and I say to you, Madam Speaker, that rather than for him to give a tirade on what I or my colleague Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith might have said or might not have said, he should simply be asked to address the question: what is the Government’s climate change policy?

HodgsonHon Pete Hodgson Link to this

The member who has just resumed his seat said that he listened carefully to the Minister’s answer. But he shouted through the Minister’s answer, and has continually interrupted it. I think it would be a good idea if he did listen to the Minister’s answer.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

I certainly could not hear. I could hear bits of the answer, but I could not hear the whole answer. So would members please enable the Minister to be heard.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

I said that the part of the climate change policy that has been particularly successful was the bringing forward of wind-power generation, so that New Zealand now has a future of cost-effective wind power being integrated into the grid. I also made the point that Dr Smith’s conduct this morning and this afternoon, in complaining that more money should be spent on an animal emissions levy, stands in stark contrast to his politicking against that levy under the guise of the then description, “fart tax”. This Government is consistent. We accept that climate change is a problem. We are addressing it; Dr Smith covers for the other Dr Smith, and does not do that.

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have now listened to three attempts from the Minister, and I still do not know the Government’s policy on climate change. The only snippet we got was about the emissions project, which has been cancelled. I think the House deserves an answer, quite simply, as to what the Government’s climate change policy is.

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

If the House wants to give me the opportunity to list some of the other recent announcements in the last 2 weeks, we have three, all of which are a small part of the matrix that makes up the response to climate change—

SmithHon Dr Nick Smith Link to this

The matrix. We have a matrix!

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

It is a big word for Dr Smith, but yes, it is a matrix. It is a series of small steps, which will lead to a big difference. Those small steps include vehicle emission testing at warrant of fitness stations, the solar hot water announcements made by Jeanette Fitzsimons last week, and confirmation that the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative is proceeding, with minor alteration.

BrownPeter Brown Link to this

Is the Minister aware that John Howard expressed the sentiment that climate change is an issue, but that it will not be solved by punishing Australians and Australian businesses by way of additional taxation; if he is aware of those sentiments, does he not believe that is a position New Zealand First should adopt also?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

If, as is the case for New Zealand and other countries around the world, business as usual sees greenhouse gas emissions increasing, then there is a need, from a policy perspective, to change the rules so that business as usual is not the outcome and we reduce our emissions. Whether we pursue a regulatory route, as Australia is, or a more efficient emissions trading route, or a combination of the two, there is a moderate cost to the economy. The mechanism goes to how that cost is shared, not as to whether one arises.

FitzsimonsJeanette Fitzsimons Link to this

Has the Minister seen any reports of the article in Nature last Thursday that records that the powerful greenhouse gas methane is being released from the thawing Siberian permafrost at five times the rate previously thought, taking us dangerously close to a climate tipping point, and does he not think it is time to inject some urgency into the policy debate?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

I have not read that report, but I have to say that my reading, which is quite extensive, on climate change gives me increasing concern rather than reducing concern, and I agree that there is an urgency for New Zealand and the world to moderate their emissions.

FitzsimonsJeanette Fitzsimons Link to this

Is the Minister concerned at the image I am holding up of the vast reduction in Greenland’s ice cap in only 13 years, and, given the predicted 7 metre sea-level rise when all the ice goes, does he think that is a reason to inject some urgency into the climate change debate?

ParkerHon DAVID PARKER Link to this

Of all the illustrations of the potential problems of climate change and suggestions that it is accelerating, what is happening both in the northern hemisphere, in Greenland and on the polar ice cap, and in Antarctica worries me the most.

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