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Turia: Climate Change Response Amendment Bill

Climate Change Response Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Conservation and Energy Spokesperson

Wednesday 25 October 2006; 8pm

Tena koe Madam Speaker, tena tatou katoa.

We are slowly but surely killing Ranginui and Papatuanuku, our parents, and we must quickly reverse the situation and care for them.

The Climate Change Response Amendment Bill provides us with the mechanism by which we can do this.

2005 has been reported as the first year that ice in the Arctic continued to melt well into the end of September, resulting in the biggest annual melt since records began.

Aotearoa has suffered two major floods in Gisborne in as many months, we have endured major flooding at home in Whanganui and Rangitikei; in the Bay of Plenty; droughts in Hawkes Bay, Otago, Marlborough, Tasman.

Human activity resulting in emissions of green-house gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, have significantly have added to, or even produced this effect over the last century.

And so, it is in this context, that the Maori Party welcomes the return to this House of the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill.

The Bill sets up two mechanisms.

- It allows individuals to trade in emission units;

- It establishes a mechanism to allow land-owners to access the value of carbon in their forests.

In essence, this means the Crown is able to give tradeable emission units in exchange for carbon.

The Crown will devolve tradeable carbon emission units equal to the carbon contained in permanent forest sinks.

So what does this mean in practice?

Just over a month ago, Christchurch City Council approved the sale of carbon credits to British Gas.

The sale hit all the papers as it was New Zealand’s first overseas carbon credit sale to a private sector buyer, and would generate more than three million dollars in revenue for the Council over five years between 2008 and 2012.

And this is where the Maori Party turns to the Genuine Progress Index for some guidance.

The Maori Party has advocated for a Genuine Progress Index, GPI, - the development of a comprehensive framework for the measurement of, sustainable, and inclusive advancement.

The GPI distinguishes between positive contributions to progress (for example, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions) and negative activity (industrial pollution).

The GPI enables communities and nations to look critically and systematically at the massive challenges in front of us with climate change, over-population, over consumption, wastage, peak oil, oil depletion, and GDP growth.

And this is the crunch issue.

For while it is of course positive that the allocation of carbon credits recognises the progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the challenge lies in the thinking behind the dealing being done.

The Maori Party has consistently supported the philosophy behind carbon tax and carbon credits; as a key means of providing incentives to industry polluters, to control and reduce their emissions.

But the value of exchanging carbon credits - trading them off with other countries, countries who are polluting the environment- seems to be rather confused logic.

Let’s trace back the history to this issue.

In December 2004, the Government awarded Christchurch City Council 200,000 carbon credits (or Emission Reduction Units) for the capture and transport of methane gas from the closed Burwood Landfill to QEII Park to heat and power the sports facility.

All praise where praise is due. It is a great initiative that this project will turn waste into a resource through the capture and use of landfill gas that might have otherwise escaped into the environment contributing to climate change.

Landfills generate methane, one of the worst greenhouse gases, as organic matter decomposes. So when methane is burnt, it is converted to carbon dioxide which reduces its climate impact by a factor of twenty to one.

In some pretty impressive number crunching by the Council, we’re told that by capturing the methane gas in this way the carbon emissions avoided by this project is equivalent to 10,900 cars taken off the road each year.

Now eleven thousand cars can’t be sneered at.

We absolutely commend the Council in being awarded these credits, made through the Projects to Reduce Emissions Programme, and support it as part of an innovative approach taken at local government level, in meeting commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

But where we do have some questions is the ethical issue around the trade off of carbon credits to a private sector buyer.

Under the Genuine Progress Index, one could not count the fact that credits have been traded for commercial gain, as an example of genuine progress. For what changes? The industry - British Gas in this example - is still polluting - but now they have credits up their sleeve by a commercial transaction with New Zealand. It just doesn’t seem to add up.

Of course, there are many other players who are supportive of the schemes created in this Bill. We know, for instance, that Ngati Porou Whanui Forests support the concepts as they - and other iwi - can make income by trading the carbon credits accumulated in their forest assets.

They could also create further employment by planting areas they otherwise would not have planted as it would have been uneconomic to have done so.

It also means they can plant trees which previously would not have returned an immediate income stream as quickly as exotic forests. It may mean the return of the slower growing indigenous species, and the creation of nurseries specialising in indigenous tree species.

This is important as research shows that pine forests are not environmentally sustainable in the long-term.

They can make money before the harvesting of the forests - it is a totally new income stream.

They can also generate income through planting permanent indigenous forests on isolated or erodable land not suitable for farming or harvesting forestry - thereby creating further employment by planting areas they otherwise would not have planted as it would have been uneconomic to have done so.

But the Maori Party would ask - isn’t the whole issue of climate change about reducing green-house gas emissions? If industry polluters are able to purchase carbon credits to offset their polluting emissions, and yet still don't make any efforts to reduce emissions - doesn’t the actual problem still remain?

Madam Speaker, the question of how New Zealand deals with climate change is an issue of hot debate for which we have many outstanding questions that we will look to the committee stage for resolution.

We know that Maori have repeatedly called for action to preserve the eco-system and protect land use.

We know that the Crown has been challenged to look at the impact of the climate change policy on the claim currently before the Waitangi Tribunal, [WAI 262].

The particular concern put forward was that any policy which promotes land use change must fully understand the impact on indigenous flora and fauna, including unintended consequences.

We also know that the Waitangi Tribunal has been looking into the issue of carbon credit allocation when Crown owned forests are growing on Maori land.

We will be looking to see - does the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill provide for Maori owned forests and carbon credits? Does it provide responsibly for Crown forests on Maori land?

We will be wanting to see through the Committee stage of this Bill evidence which demonstrates how tangata whenua have been involved.

Mr Speaker, climate change affects us all.

It is time to look critically at the way in which we measure the national accounts, and look for a more realistic, a more telling tale of the progress achieved in our nation.

Our total well-being, health and sustenance is dependent on the prosperity of the whole natural environment, the big picture.

Climate change is part of that big picture - and carbon credits reward and recognise steps to protect our environment.

To this end, we support the further development of this Bill with a view to Genuine Progress in Aotearoa.


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