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Climate Change Work Vital For Primary Producers

1 May 2002

The vital importance of agriculture to New Zealand's wellbeing has been recognized by the Government, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said there had been "a lot of hot air" talked about what the Government was going to do about the Kyoto Protocol and a lot of misinformation about its effect on farmers' income.

"This Government has consulted widely to ensure the best possible policy can be formulated. We've listened to what people had to say. Yesterday's announcement proves that."

Greenhouse gases ? methane and nitrous oxide ? produced on farms have been exempted from the proposed emissions charge, to be levied from 2008 as part of the Government's preferred policy package on climate change.

"Farmers can't do anything about these emissions, given current technology, so taxing them would be pointless," Mr Sutton said.

The package, released yesterday, sets out for consultation the Government's preferred policies for meeting New Zealand's targets under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Protocol, which the Government expects to ratify in August, requires New Zealand and other developed nations to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Climate change convener Pete Hodgson said that the agricultural sector would be exempt from any price measure in the first commitment period, provided the sector is willing to invest, in partnership with the Government, in research to identify future options for reducing agricultural emissions.

The Government retains the option of imposing a research levy if the research effort falls below what is required. Mr Sutton said the ownership of that intellectual property would be negotiated between the Government and industry.

"New Zealand's farmers probably have the most to lose as a result of climate change, of any sector of the economy. But the climate change response is likely to be the biggest driver of technology in the first few decades of this century, so we have a chance to convert that threat into an opportunity, by adopting the leadership role in this specialized area. "The fact that the other advanced pastoral economies, Australia and the United States, are dragging their feet in fronting up to climate change will play inot our hands when they eventually join the global effort," Mr Sutton predicted.

The preferred policy package will be subject to further public consultation, with written submissions due by June 14. Public meetings and hui will be held through May.

Copies of the discussion document describing the Government's preferred policy package and the rationale behind it are available from the climate change website at www.climatechange.govt.nz Hard copies are available from the Climate Change project (04) 918 3129 or info@climatechange.govt.nz

Ends

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