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NZ aims to ratify Kyoto Protocol by mid-2002

8 May 2000

NZ aims to ratify Kyoto Protocol on climate change by mid-2002

Prime Minister Helen Clark today announced the government 's commitment to pass legislation to enable New Zealand to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by mid-2002.

"Industrialisation has taken its toll on the very conditions which support all human life. The potential consequences of this process for future generations, if left unchecked, are bleak indeed.

"New Zealand needs to play its part on the climate change issue by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.

"The long-term consequences of climate change, and of not taking decisive action to limit growth in greenhouse gas emissions, are particularly stark for New Zealand's South Pacific island neighbours.

"Climate change associated with greenhouse gas emissions and the consequential rising sea levels could threaten the very existence of some of these nations.

"For New Zealand, too, the stakes are high. We have a relatively small economy defending a very long coastline. Much of our economy is based on a moderate and reliable climate. Our nation is now vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

"In addition, New Zealand thinks of itself as a clean and green nation. Many of our economic activities, such as tourism and agriculture, capitalise on that image.

"Failure to move decisively on climate change issues impairs that image. It should be noted that last year environmental NGOs awarded New Zealand the 'Fossil of the Decade' award for poor progress on climate change issues.

"June 2002 marks ten years since the first Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, at which the full extent of climate change was mapped out and given a degree of media prominence it had never previously enjoyed.

"Two years from now, at 'Rio Plus Ten', the world's nations will have the opportunity to assess progress, or lack of it.

"New Zealand aims to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by June 2002, when the Rio Plus Ten Earth Summit meets.

"As a member of the OECD, the 'rich' group of countries responsible for most of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, New Zealand has a clear responsibility to take action.

"The Kyoto Protocol, formulated in December 1997, commits developed countries to reduce their collective emissions of the six main greenhouse gases by at least five per cent, based on the 1990 level of emissions.

"The Protocol will only become binding when at least 55 countries, including developed countries accounting for at least 55 per cent of developed countries' carbon dioxide emissions, have ratified it.

"Ratification in New Zealand will need to be preceded by passage of legislation and policy changes supporting a programme of emissions reduction in accordance with the targets specified at Kyoto.

"New Zealand's target under the Kyoto Protocol is to hold emissions, on average, at 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

"The legislative and policy timetable the government has set leading to ratification of the Protocol by New Zealand is a tight one.

"A ministerial group has been established to oversee the development of a climate change action programme. Convened by the Minister of Energy, Forestry, Research, Science and Technology, Pete Hodgson, its membership also includes the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Agriculture, Environment, Associate Environment and Transport.

"It is anticipated that by the end of this year the Cabinet will have considered papers setting out policy direction and immediately implementable policy measures.

"By itself, New Zealand's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and the reductions in our greenhouse emissions flowing from this, will have little direct impact on climate change.

"New Zealand is a good international citizen. The government recognises that in order to minimise the impact of climate change on New Zealand and our region, we must lead by example and encourage other countries to participate actively in the international effort on climate change.

"Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol will position New Zealand to be up with the leaders on climate change and play a small but worthy role in bequeathing future generations a more sustainable world," Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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