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NZ Economy At Long-Term Risk From Climate Change

4 July 2006

NZ Economy At Long-Term Risk From Global Climate Change

The New Zealand economy is at greater risk from global climate change than any other economy in the developed world and therefore managing global climate change must be accorded the highest priority for the Government and the primary industries, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Jim Anderton said today.

“The climate change work programme released today shows the Government is serious about getting climate change policy right. We are taking a long-term view of the global climate change issue. Climate change is much bigger than the Kyoto Protocol and first and foremost we should be focussing on the impacts and preparing for these,” Jim Anderton said.

“Because we depend upon a stable climate for most of what we produce we need to ensure our primary industries are adequately prepared and therefore the Government is making adaptation a priority for climate policy. There is no doubt climate change, and consequential climate instability, has started and will pose huge challenges for New Zealand producers so we need to develop tools to help them meet those challenges,” Jim Anderton said.

“New Zealand is a tiny contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions (less than 0.2%) but because we are so dependent upon the problem being managed by the world’s larger economies it is vital that we do our bit. It is in the interests of every New Zealander to look at what each of us can do to contribute, no matter how insignificant these actions may seem. We cannot expect major industrial emitters to take action if we are not individually making our contribution,” Jim Anderton said.

“The Government accepts that there are limited tools available to address agricultural emissions. The imperative is not that we stop greenhouse gases coming from animals or that we discourage farmers from producing. We cannot and should not try to do so - our agriculture sector is the backbone our economy. Rather, it is important that every sector makes a meaningful contribution to managing the problem,” Jim Anderton said.

“Fortunately improvements in the productivity of pastoral production are already yielding more milk and meat for lesser emissions. These kinds of win-wins are good for the economy and good for the environment, and there is much more along these lines that we can do. The Government acknowledges the importance of the work of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Consortium has been doing and the need to develop practical mitigation solutions. The question now is how much more we can do,” Jim Anderton said.

“The Government also acknowledges the contribution the forestry sector makes in sequestering carbon. Forestry is clearly part of the solution and the work programme reflects this. The Government intends developing a package of measures that ensure forestry plays the most useful role it possibly can in New Zealand’s contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Jim Anderton said.

“While some people in the forestry sector have argued they have a property right around the carbon that forests have already sequestered, it is not possible to accept this view unless it is also accepted that everyone who emits has a legal liability, and furthermore this should apply retrospectively. We are far from that point at this time and to simply let all liabilities lie where they fall would damage our most important industries. This doesn’t mean that we should do nothing. Rather we must actively manage our economy into a ‘carbon-constrained’ future.

"The Labour-Progressive Government is looking to the future and I encourage the agriculture and forestry sectors to take a long-term and forward-looking view of how climate change will affect them,” Jim Anderton said.

ENDS

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