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Climate change issue needs cross party deal

5 July 2006

Climate change issue so big it needs cross party deal

Business wants the Government to strive for cross-party agreement on a long term approach to managing the huge climate change issues facing the country.

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development – whose 51 members' turnover equates to 28% of the gross domestic product – says the Government is doing a lot of sensible things in the work programmes outlined in its "way forward" on climate change. There will be no rush for a quick fix that could unravel at the next election.

However, it won't work best for business or New Zealand unless there is cross party agreement, Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson said today.

"It's the old story: we're dealing with a 60 year problem and we have three year Parliaments."

Cross party agreement should be sought so businesses can plan and invest long term.

The country needs broad based agreement for having a price on carbon in the New Zealand economy – and then for a cap on emissions. It will be necessary to implement an emissions trading system, which is where the rest of the world is going.

Mr Neilson says the Government's "way forward" contained a lot of good work programmes.

"It's important to get it right for the long term. We've had the two false starts of the fart and carbon taxes.

"It's good to see the Government talking about engaging business and the country in understanding the problem – and helping take action to manage it. The Minister is right to call on his Cabinet colleagues to start thinking of some 'bold' answers on climate change.

"In the short term we can do some bold things which will quickly make a difference. Like cleaning up one of the world's oldest and dirtiest car fleets, insulating tens of thousands more of our draughty, damp, unhealthy homes, and pouring more money into research on how we reduce methane emissions from farm animals. Down to earth measures like this will improve both our health and competitiveness – and our extensive nationwide research shows Kiwis will roll up their sleeves to help if they're asked."

Mr Neilson says cross party agreement is imperative because of the sheer scale and potential economic impact of problems reputable scientists say are likely to face the country. They include an up to fourfold increase in flood risks in most regions, a two to fourfold increase in drought risk, specially in eastern regions, eroding and retreating coastlines (with potentially huge impacts on people's property values), and changing biosecurity risks.

"The costs of these impacts are likely to be highly significant for New Zealand. The February 2004 Manawatu flood cost was about $0.3 billion. The late 1990s droughts cost well over $1 billion.

"I think the country would rather be investing in, and profiting from the results of, smart research into reducing emissions than paying to mop up after relentless flooding tragedies.

"The prospect of sitting down and coming up with a comprehensive platform of measures which tackle the impacts of climate change – and which allow us all to help control emissions in ways which profit everyone – is a prospect to be supported.

The National Party's environment spokesperson, Dr Nick Smith, and the Greens have both said publicly they'll support cross party agreement on climate change. Business believes the Government should today add obtaining cross party agreement to its climate change work programme.

Our political leaders can get together on the terrible problem of child abuse. I'm sure we can get together to seize the huge opportunities inherent in managing climate change the right way," Mr Neilson says.


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