Why did he reject Treasury advice that an appropriate 2020 target for New Zealand’s emissions would be 15 percent above 1990 levels rather than the 10 percent to 20 percent below 1990 levels that he announced last week?
Firstly, I do not consider that a target of 15 percent above 1990 levels would have been internationally credible. The range amongst the targets tabled in negotiations by developed countries is minus 30 percent from Norway through to 0 percent by the United States. Positive 15 percent would be untenable. Secondly, it would have been inconsistent with National’s election mandate. On climate change, we campaigned on New Zealand not being a laggard nor being a world leader, but doing our fair share. Our 10 percent to 20 percent target is consistent with that. Thirdly, Treasury’s proposal was to exempt forestry from the target. It is the Government’s view that if we can get correct the parameters of the policy, we can get significant plantation forests planted, and can make a significant contribution towards New Zealand making the minus 10 percent to 20 percent target.
Does the Minister agree with the Treasury analysis that in choosing a 2020 emissions target he is imposing higher costs on New Zealand than those of our trading partners, and, indeed, as Treasury shows, causing three times the damage to New Zealand growth, jobs, and incomes compared with the damage caused by Australia’s target, and 10 times the damage of the US’s target?
The economic analysis that was provided noted that the cost to the New Zealand economy of our 10 percent to 20 percent target would be very similar to the cost of the Australian target of 15 percent to 25 percent. The reason I recommended a target range very similar, in economic cost terms, to Australia’s is that I think it is fair, with the degree of integration between the New Zealand and Australian economies, that we take a similar burden on this important issue.
Has the Minister seen the comment from the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that New Zealand’s high conditional emissions target is “disappointing and inadequate”, and why does the Government continue to discourage the development of low-carbon sectors in the New Zealand economy by viewing climate change policy as a trade-off between the environment and the economy, a position that the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has labelled a “fallacy”?
With all due respect, I disagree. [ Interruption] Let me put it in context. Do I think it is possible to reduce emissions significantly without cost? The frank answer is I do not.
Does the Minister still endorse the statement made by his colleague Tim Groser that the response to our climate change targets at Bonn was “uniformly positive”; if so, how does he square it with the comments of Dr Pachauri, the chief scientist of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that New Zealand’s goals are “disappointing and inadequate” and that we “clearly need a much greater level of ambition”?
I totally support it, and it is consistent with the communications I have had with a range of countries about the target that New Zealand has set. I simply say to members opposite from both the Green Party and Labour that when they were in charge of this country our emissions grew by 14 percent. We could have tabled a much more ambitious target if, in fact, the previous Government had made some policy on climate change, rather than talking big and doing absolutely nothing.
Tēnā koe, e Te Mana Whakawā. What has been the trend in New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions in recent years, and how has it impacted on New Zealand’s ability to set an ambitious target for a post-2012 deal?
New Zealand can reduce its net emissions by either reducing gross emissions or planting trees. In the 1990s New Zealand’s emissions grew by 10 percent, but, thankfully, 600,000 hectares of trees were planted. During the course of the last Government gross emissions grew by 14 percent, and not only were no trees planted but there was significant deforestation. It is noteworthy that if the previous Government had, over the same number of years, constrained emissions to the same rate as had occurred in the 1990s—10 percent—and had planted trees at the same rate as in the 1990s, New Zealand’s emissions today would be 14 percent less. Lo and behold, members opposite now complain that we are not setting a more ambitious target.
Has the Minister received any indication from any of his ministerial colleagues that they will resign if they do not get their way on this issue?
Is it correct that New Zealand is the only country that is including agricultural emissions?
No. Every country has to account for its agricultural emissions on the same basis as New Zealand is, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and also under the Kyoto Protocol. Countries are free to implement their own domestic policies to reduce emissions, and most countries for which agriculture contributes a small proportion of their emissions have not included it. That means other sectors of the economy must carry the cost. The problem for New Zealand is that agriculture contributes such a large portion of our emissions that excluding it from our domestic policy puts a higher burden on the rest of the economy.
Does the Minister agree with a former National Energy Minister, the Hon Barry Brill, who in today’s New Zealand Herald commented on the Government’s targets for climate change that “The cost is appalling. Why aren’t we rioting in the streets? Even now, we can’t afford decent healthcare, education, prisons, so where we will we find another $6 billion per year? How can a family of four find an extra $112 per week after tax?”; or does he think that such costs are acceptable?
There has been significant public debate about the level of cost. There are people who have argued it is $112 per week; I do not agree with that figure. The Government believes that a reasonable figure—and it comes from a study—is about 30 bucks a week for the average New Zealander. That is a significant amount, but it is my view that it is the contribution that New Zealanders need to make in respect of climate change policy.