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NZ a long way from meeting its Kyoto commitments

16 February 2005

NZ is a long way from meeting its Kyoto commitments

Labour is to be congratulated for ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, which takes legal effect today, but it needs to do much more to ensure that New Zealand actually meets its resulting commitments, says Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"As we celebrate the worlds' first climate change treaty, I note with sadness that New Zealand has already exceeded its carbon emissions target by 20 per cent and that they are still rising," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party's Climate Change Spokesperson.

New Zealand accepted a 'Kyoto target' of returning its 'net' emissions to its 1990 level (i.e. subtracting the carbon captured by forests planted since 1990). This is an easier target than for most countries, which have to reduce their net emissions to below their 1990 levels.

"We are miles away from achieving our commitment. Even on a 'net' basis we are producing 20 per cent more now than we were then. We have just five years to get rid of that 20 per cent, otherwise not only will we not have the carbon credits we're expecting to sell, we may have to buy them.

"This Government's record on climate change is mixed. On the positive side they have ratified Kyoto and appear to be taking climate change seriously. They have used carbon credits from forestry to incentivise wind farms and have announced a carbon tax for 2007 that will be avoidable by some industries if they improve their energy efficiency.

"But on the negative side, two Government-owned companies, Solid Energy and Mighty River Power, are planning several new coal-fired power stations that will significantly raise our emissions and the Government is not discouraging them. The Government seems to believe the spin on 'clean coal' to such a degree that it has chosen Solid Energy to front New Zealand's pavilion at the Aichi Expo in Japan this year. Furthermore, it has underwritten Genesis' new gas-fired power plant at Huntly, which couldn't get bank finance because there is currently no gas supply for it.

"To meet our Kyoto target there needs to be real commitment to energy efficiency through both funding and regulation and serious vehicle fuel efficiency standards to discourage the purchase of SUVs and other gas-guzzlers. We also need a serious commitment to solar energy and biomass fuels including wood.

"On a more fundamental level, if the Government is to truly and permanently reduce New Zealand's carbon emissions, it must abandon growth in GDP as its over-arching goal and replace it with growth in human wellbeing and quality of life, to ensure a truly sustainable economy.

"With the Protocol now in force, negotiations for the next commitment round from 2012 can now begin. With the latest research showing catastrophic climate change may be irreversible in ten years, all countries should realise that this new round must lead to rapid and substantive reductions in carbon emissions. There is simply no time to waste," said Ms Fitzsimons.


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