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Hodgson's Opening Statement At The Hague

Opening statement to the 2000 World Conference on Climate Change, The Hague

Climate change matters to New Zealand. We are a small economy defending a very long coastline. We live well because we grow things well. We grow things well because we have a climate that is even and reliable.

We are a western nation and we are a Polynesian nation. New Zealanders have friends and relatives who live on coral atolls that are less than 2 metres high. So you see why climate change matters to us.

New Zealand is an Umbrella Group nation that has announced it intends to ratify. We want to ratify at Rio+10. We have come here, exactly half a world away, to get a deal.

I want to speak about two things only. They are environmental integrity and flexibility.

Environmental integrity comes at the top of our list. It is above all else. But this phrase must mean something if it is not to become a cliche. For New Zealand, environmental integrity means rules. Rules that deliver gains to the atmosphere. Rules that do not fudge. Rules that exclude agendas which seek to weaken or pretend. Rules that exclude unsustainable technologies. Rules on monitoring, reporting, review, compliance and liability that work and that people trust. Rules that are simple, clear, easy to follow and hard to break. Rules that secure environmental integrity.

We have come to The Hague to get those rules.

Once we have the rules New Zealand wants full flexibility to act within them. Flexibility to develop our own policies and measures. Flexibility to set our own regulations, to trade, to plant, to abate, to adopt new technologies, to research newer technologies. We want the flexibility to start on CDM activities, and like the G77 we want that soon.

The rules that secure environmental integrity are the same rules that will deliver a price for carbon. It is that price, more than well intentioned political commitment, which will catalyse appropriate technology transfer to the G77. It is that price which will allow the world to move along the cost curve together. It is that price that begins to internalise the environmental externalities. That is, so long as we have the flexibility to use it.

Inflexibility will slow things down. We will tend to move at the pace of the slowest Annex 1 nation, and that will be too slow. In short, inflexibility is environmentally damaging.

So, no caps, no constraints, no liability debates, no top heavy regulation, no agendas to damage flexibility with transaction costs. No arguments about who has the franchise on wisdom, or who has the moral authority. We are in this together and each of us has our starting point whether we like it or not. Just let us sort out the rules. Each of us will do the rest.


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