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Parker: Statement to Climate Change Convention

Hon David Parker
Minister responsible for Climate Change issues

16 November 2006

Speech notes

The world needs to cooperate on climate change

New Zealand's statement to the Joint High Level Segment of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Climate Change Convention, and to the Meeting of Parties (MOP) to the Kyoto Protocol.
United Nations Climate Change conference, Nairobi, Kenya

Mr President

I bring greetings from New Zealand and thank you and your Government for hosting us here in Nairobi. It is appropriate that the world has come to Africa, a cradle of humanity, to discuss climate change. Climate change brings significant and critical challenges that will affect humanity for many generations.

Most children born today should live well into the second half of the century. Our children and our children’s children should and will judge us harshly if we do not act responsibly. We have better technologies, better communications, better information better knowledge and more money than any generation that has gone before us. We have vast capability, but with these powers come risks and responsibilities.

The scientific evidence is clear. Climate change has moved well beyond being just an environmental debate, it is now an ethical and economic issue. It is a defining issue of the 21st century.

Addressing climate change will require cooperation across the world. We must be innovative in our approach, including helping developing countries to achieve not just climate change goals, but also their own sustainable development objectives. To this end, we should seize the opportunity to make the Kyoto Protocol a more effective instrument by reviewing it at the same time as we look towards establishing the future commitments which will apply after 2012.

It is quite clear that the current Kyoto Protocol framework alone will not deliver sufficient emissions reductions to avoid dangerous climate change. The way in which we tackle climate change in the future will be nuanced. The contributions that different countries make will reflect their varying national circumstances.

We must find a way to reduce projected greenhouse gas emission levels beyond the reductions already in the Kyoto “pipeline”. The Stern Review underlines the need for broad international participation in this effort. We must not lose sight of critical issues such as sustainable development and equity. Equally, we must keep our focus on the imperative of reducing global emissions.

We should seek ways to reduce projected emissions and enhance removals by sinks at least cost, regardless of where these activities occur. To this end, we must seek to build on the lessons learned from the Kyoto flexibility mechanisms.

Technology will have a huge role to play. For New Zealand, our single largest source of emissions – 50% - is from pastoral agriculture – the foundation of our economy. It is an area where we have a long history of research and development. Despite our small size, our research effort in agriculture is world-scale. We have already made significant progress in new technology to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture. This is part of our contribution to the world effort to reduce emissions. We haven’t made much headway yet in our research to reduce ruminant methane emissions from livestock, but we want to work with other countries to advance progress in this area. This will be a focus of our bilateral meetings at this conference.

In New Zealand, we are well down the path to updating our climate change policies. We are looking long-term, at policies that reduce emissions while making sense for our national circumstances. Policies under development also maximise the co-benefits of taking action on climate change, such as more efficient use of energy and improved land use management. We are also looking to balance durable efforts to reduce our emissions with preparations for the impacts of a more variable climate.

New Zealand already generates 70% of its electricity from renewable sources – the third highest percentage in the developed world after Iceland and Norway. So while the forthcoming New Zealand Energy Strategy will build further on our commitment to renewables, the truth is we can’t find the same emissions reductions in the power generation sector which other countries can.

In transport, we are like most countries. We have a real challenge on our hands. To reduce transport emissions will require a combination of improving the fuel efficiency of our vehicle fleet, better public transport and new, lower-emissions transport fuels. On the latter point, growing biofuels will be an important part of the development of alternative transport fuels. New Zealand also hopes to be able to help our Pacific Island neighbours to develop a market in feedstock for sustainable biofuels, for both their own use, and to help the world reduce its transport emissions. This will have both economic and environmental benefits. Beyond biofuels, electric car technology powered by our renewable electricity will be important for reducing emissions from our urban vehicles.

The New Zealand Government sees benefit in the Kyoto mechanisms. These can assist the formation of carbon markets, which help find the lowest-cost emissions reductions across the world, as well as achieving wider sustainable development objectives.

Adaptation is essential to address as part of climate change priorities. This is clearly relevant in Africa. Closer to my home, countries in the Pacific face particularly severe climate impacts. It is inevitable that we will need to help manage the effects of some climate change. We must deal with this. We are working with countries in our region to deliver their climate change priorities.

Last, but certainly not least, New Zealand is committed to playing its part in international efforts to address climate change. As you will be aware, we are the only country in the Southern Hemisphere which has a binding Annex 1 emissions reduction target. This causes us some cost, but we see this as moderate compared to the cost of more extreme climate change.

We are resolved to meeting our commitments under both the Framework Convention and its Kyoto Protocol. Representing only 0.3 per cent of global emissions, we can’t do it on our own; we need company. So we are committed to working with other nations here to develop the new international climate change arrangements needed after 2012. We can only achieve this if we work together in an open and constructive manner. Mr President, the choice is ours.


ENDS

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