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NZ poised to ratify Kyoto Protocol


Climate Change Response Bill passed, NZ poised to ratify Kyoto Protocol

New Zealand is ready to ratify the Kyoto Protocol following the passage through Parliament last night of the Climate Change Response Bill, says the Convenor of the Ministerial Group on Climate Change, Pete Hodgson.

The Bill was passed last night by 61 votes to 56. It provides the legal framework for ratification of the Protocol.

The Bill includes powers for the Minister of Finance to manage New Zealand’s holdings of units that represent New Zealand’s target allocation for greenhouse gas emissions under the Protocol. It enables the Minister to trade those units on the international market. It establishes a Registry to record holdings and transfers of units. And it establishes a national inventory agency to record and report information relating to greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with international requirements.

"The government will ratify the Protocol soon, following the passage of this Bill," Mr Hodgson told Parliament last night. " In doing so we will join the majority of developed nations, including many of our major trading partners. We will meet our international obligations and past commitments. We will be putting this nation in a position to make a measured transition to a carbon-constrained economy, rather than acting late and facing the necessity of more drastic and costly change. We will be setting out on the path to a sustainable energy future."

The government announced last month the domestic climate change policies that will enable New Zealand to meet its Kyoto Protocol target for greenhouse gas emissions, which is to stabilise emissions at 1990 levels over the Protocol's first commmitment period 2008-2012.

Mr Hodgson said the last remaining step was for New Zealand to deposit an "instrument of ratification" document with the United Nations in New York. Preparations to do so were under way and New Zealand would ratify within the next few weeks.

Climate Change Response Bill: Third Reading

[NB: These notes were the basis for the minister's speech to Parliament, delivered 8.10pm last night: they are not Hansard, the official record of Parliament]

The Climate Change Response Bill puts in place a framework to allow New Zealand to meet its international obligations under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In particular, the bill includes powers for the Minister of Finance to manage New Zealand’s holdings of units that represent New Zealand’s target allocation for greenhouse gas emissions under the Protocol. It enables the Minister to trade those units on the international market. It establishes a Registry to record holdings and transfers of units. And it establishes a national Inventory agency to record and report information relating to greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with international requirements.

The Bill provides for accountability and transparency in the exercise of these duties and powers. In this respect the recommendations of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee were most helpful and I thank that committee for its work.

The Bill is necessary to allow New Zealand to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Existing law does not provide the necessary powers of Ministers and agents, nor the necessary safeguards for the interests of third parties trading with the Crown. Careful provision has been made in the Bill to limit the application of powers under the Bill to protect individual rights. The Government is firmly of the view that the Bill complies with the Bill of Rights Act.

Climate change is a serious threat to the environment and economy of New Zealand and the world. If global warming is allowed to continue unchecked, the long-term impacts on this country are predicted to be severe indeed.

Although there might be some initial benefits for agriculture from a warmer climate, floods and droughts are expected to become more frequent and more extreme. Biosecurity is likely to come under increasing pressure, especially from subtropical pests and diseases.

Sea level rises would create problems with saltwater intrusion into groundwater, as well as threatening infrastructure. Further problems with water supply and infrastructure would arise from higher rainfall in the west of the country and drier conditions in the east.

New human health risks would arrive from pests and diseases, such as dengue fever, that presently thrive in warmer countries. And native species would be threatened by climatic changes in what remains of their habitats.

Climate change is a global problem and a concerted international effort is required to combat it. The Kyoto Protocol is the only international agreement that offers any hope of progress. That progress will initially be modest, but it will be progress. The alternative is none, and the costs of doing nothing are too much to contemplate. New Zealand has made a significant contribution to the Protocol over many years of international negotiations. We have never shrunk from our obligation to contribute constructively on an issue that is of global importance, and of particular importance for this country's economic security and the future of our South Pacific neighbours. We do not shrink now from the obligation to follow through on those past commitments by ratifying the Protocol and implementing the domestic policy necessary to achieve real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Passing this Bill is the last step towards ratification for New Zealand. The government has decided and announced the policies necessary to achieve our emissions target under the Protocol. We have consulted extensively on those policies. We have fought and won a general election in which our intention to ratify was clearly stated. We have examined carefully and deeply the case for ratifying the Protocol, and it is overwhelming.

New Zealand will be in the fortunate position of being a net seller of carbon credits in the international carbon market that will be established under the Protocol. For that reason this country stands to gain economically as well as environmentally from ratification. Nevertheless some of our industries face competition from countries that will not have emissions targets in the Protocol's first commitment period. We have designed our domestic climate change policies to protect the interests of those industries, and the economy as a whole, while ensuring that our emissions target can still be met.

The government will ratify the Protocol soon, following the passage of this Bill. In doing so we will join the majority of developed nations, including many of our major trading partners. We will meet our international obligations and past commitments. We will be putting this nation in a position to make a measured transition to a carbon-constrained economy, rather than acting late and facing the necessity of more drastic and costly change. We will be setting out on the path to a sustainable energy future.

I for one will be proud when that happens. I commend this Bill to the house.


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