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Greenhouse Gas Reduction—Target

Wednesday 3 June 2009 Hansard source (external site)

Norman5. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) Link to this
to the Minister for Climate Change Issues

Is he concerned that New Zealand’s failure to commit to a greenhouse gas reduction target at the current Bonn climate change talks will damage our clean, green brand?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues) Link to this

No, New Zealand has committed to a 50 percent reduction in our 1990 emissions by 2050, and to a global target of stabilising carbon dioxide levels at 450 parts per million. We will state our 2020 target at the August negotiations. Members will be aware of the wild variations in New Zealand’s emissions data because of the uncertainty over forestry. In the next month, we want to get the satellite data from the Land Use and Carbon Analysis Scheme, to which the Government has committed millions of dollars, so that we can make realistic and achievable targets by 2020.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

Is he proud that at the international climate change negotiations in Bonn, New Zealand is competing with Russia to be the very last country at the negotiations to table a medium-term emission reduction target; how does this add to our clean, green reputation?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

The first point I make to the member is that most of the countries that have committed to so-called targets have actually committed to a wide range. Those countries have said that if the international community comes on board, they will follow one course of action, or if nobody comes on board, they will follow another course of action. The Government has not received any concern from other countries about the fact that New Zealand wants to take its time about setting that 2020 target. That is a very important target for New Zealand to set, and it is the Government’s intention to set that target in a very careful and considered way.

ChauvelCharles Chauvel Link to this

Is the Minister surprised that New Zealand was awarded the “Fossil of the Day” award at the climate change talks today in Bonn, given that today’s excuse for not naming a 2020 target is apparently the need for public consultation, but April’s excuse was the need for further data?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

I note that during the term of the previous Government New Zealand received that so-called fossil award on several occasions. The fact is that the previous Government committed to New Zealand being carbon neutral, and for all of that emissions increased at a greater rate than in almost any other developed country. I make absolutely no apologies for this Government wanting to take a very considered view of the target that we will set for 2020, noting that that is a binding agreement, which will have huge implications for New Zealand.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

Can the Minister tell us whether he is waiting to set a target as a result of waiting for the satellite data that he spoke of in his first answer, or is he waiting to set a target as a result of wanting to conduct a consultation, as the Government told the international negotiations in Bonn?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

Both are correct. We have satellite data coming from the Land Use and Carbon Analysis System scheme, on which the Government has spent over $10 million. We are due to get that data in July. That is critical. Members opposite would know that variations in figures around forestry can make a difference of up to 10 to 20 percent on New Zealand’s emissions debt data. It is also the Government’s intention, on a target that is set for New Zealand for 2020, to engage with the public about what would be an appropriate level for us to commit to as a Government.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

What specific steps has the Government put in place to begin this consultation that it has talked about at the Bonn negotiations, if this is to be taken seriously by this Parliament and the international community? Presumably the Government has in place a series of steps that it has already begun around this consultation.

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

The first step is to get very good quality information, including economic analysis, on the impacts of various targets. For instance, if we are going to set to a bold reduction target in emissions by 2020, we need to be honest with New Zealanders about what the costs of that will be. The Government will be bringing that information together so that we can have an honest dialogue with New Zealanders about what an appropriate 2020 target should be.

NormanDr Russel Norman Link to this

Is he aware that at the conference extensive comments have been made that New Zealand is not taking the negotiations seriously and that the New Zealand Government is treating the negotiations with contempt by not naming a target and by saying that it will begin a consultation process back in New Zealand to determine a target, and does he not believe that this will have a significant impact on New Zealand’s clean and green reputation, which is worth at least $1 billion in export earnings every year?

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

Neither I, nor my officials, nor my Associate Minister, Tim Groser, have received any such comments from other countries or organisations. In fact, from the contact I have had countries have been very aware of New Zealand’s unique emissions profile, and when in the last year the Government’s figures have changed by more than a billion dollars around forestry, then it is the Government’s view—

HughesHon Darren Hughes Link to this

Like the tax cuts, and the Superannuation Fund.

SmithHon Dr NICK SMITH Link to this

I say to Mr Hughes that the question is about climate change, if he had not noticed. When there has been a shift in more than a billion dollars in a single 12 months, it is absolutely responsible of the New Zealand Government to want to get reliable figures before we make such an important commitment.

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