What reports has he received on New Zealand’s climate change initiatives, particularly the ETS and the global alliance for research into cutting agriculture emissions, and how have those influenced New Zealand’s role in the international negotiations of a new climate change deal, post-Kyoto?
The reports indicate a high level of respect for the progress New Zealand has been able to make on climate change, in sensibly implementing a moderate emissions trading scheme and launching the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. The Minister responsible for International Climate Change Negotiations, Tim Groser, chaired discussions in Mexico City on how countries’ pledges to reduce emissions can work best, and consequently he has been invited to the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate this week in Washington. That reflects the international respect for Tim’s work as a negotiator, as well as his work in climate change, and New Zealand’s proactive role on the issue of climate change. I also note that this year New Zealand’s former Climate Change Ambassador, Adrian Macey, was elected to a key role in the post-Kyoto negotiations, again reinforcing the constructive role New Zealand is playing in these difficult negotiations.
Has the Minister seen the UMR Research report, published yesterday, on public attitudes to climate change and the emissions trading scheme, and what conclusions does he draw from that report?
Yes, I have seen the report, and it is very encouraging, because it reinforces the approach the Government is taking. A very clear majority of people in New Zealand want to reduce our emissions, but they are also cognisant of the costs, as consumers, and of the impacts on jobs. On the question of the emissions trading scheme, a minority of 23 percent want the scheme scrapped altogether, whereas a similar number of 25 percent want us to go harder and be more demanding in reducing emissions. It is also interesting to note that over the last year there has been an increase in the proportion, now up to 52 percent, of the public who back the need to provide support for businesses that are trade exposed. The poll indicated a very polarised position on the inclusion of agriculture in the emissions trading scheme, with 48 percent being opposed and 45 percent in support. That reinforces the cautious position the Government has taken on the inclusion of agriculture in the emissions trading scheme.
What reports has the Minister seen on how the emissions trading scheme is helping New Zealand reduce emissions?
There are two areas where the scheme is having a very positive impact. The first is in respect of forestry. In the years 2005 to 2008 we had the highest level of deforestation since records began in the 1930s; that has been reversed, with plantings now exceeding felling in both 2008 and the projected figures for 2009. I am also encouraged by reports from nurseries that the forward orders for 2011 are the most positive for more than a decade. The second positive result is the switch of investment in electricity generation. Over the last decade more than 60 percent of new generation has been thermal, and that has resulted in a decline in the proportion of our power that is renewable. I am further encouraged by the fact that over 80 percent of new resource consents for electricity generation are now for renewable power, and that is exactly where New Zealand needs to head.
Can he confirm that his emissions trading scheme will cost the good people of Mana $20 million over the next 3 years, and if he does not think it will cost $20 million, how much does he think it will cost?
The costs for the people of Mana would be substantially more if we put our heads in the sand and pretended there was not an issue in relation to climate change. I would also note that there are a number of significant forestry areas in the area of Mana, and our very capable candidate, Hekia Parata, has discussed with me the encouragement that is going on in forestry. Seeing new trees being planted in that electorate is something I think most members of this Parliament would welcome.