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Hone Harawira: Climate Change Bill

Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill
Wednesday 12 December 2007; 5pm
Hone Harawira, Climate Change spokesperson for Maori Party

As I was thinking about what to say on this bill, a couple of emails came my way

The first was fromLowndes Associates, proudly announcing that they are the first law firm to get carbon neutral certification in Aotearoa, although given the amount of methane coming off the bull-droppings that are a natural part of law firms, you’d have to assess that claim through a healthy whiff of incense.
To their credit though, Lowndes Associates also has an army of legal experts to help their clients understand the government’s emissions trading scheme and the emerging carbon trading market.
The second email came from theIndigenous Environmental Network at the United Nations climate talks in Bali, urging governments to reject a World Bank initiative to include forests in carbon markets.
TheForest Carbon Partnership Facility was set to be launched as a key project in reducing emissions through deforestation in developing countries, but the Indigenous Environmental Network said that the scheme would not make any difference, because all it would do is let industrialised nations and companies, buy their way out of emissions reductions.

Now when law firms, international indigenous groups, and the World Bank, all get caught up in something as big as climate change, you know it’s a big deal, so you just have to ask, how come this government is introducing something this important, under urgency? because you simply do not get robust and intelligent debate on a Bill squeezed into the middle of 19 other bills, being rammed through the House just before Christmas.
What you get is limited discussion from MPs thinking about something else, and no real depth of understanding of the costs and benefits of an emissions trading scheme to support global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But there are a couple of concepts I’d like to present as the Maori Party contribution to this debate if I could.

The first is our responsibility as tangata whenua to care for all those who live in this land, and their descendants, in line with our kaupapa of rangatiratanga, manaakitanga, and whänaungatanga, and the obligations we have of care and preservation.
This emissions trading scheme has a similar philosophy of recognising and honouring obligations in the industries of forestry, mining, steelworks and farming, through the verification and surrender of emission units.

The second is the concept of kaitiakitanga, and our responsibility to care for our world, through the reduction of those activities that would harm and indeed destroy that world.
In the interests of life itself, let alone social, economic and environmental sustainability, we have a responsibility to reduce our carbon output.

Maori have a role to play in the reduction of greenhouse emissions, and we don’t stand down from that responsibility, but Maori also have the right to manage what little assets they may have, for the betterment of their people too.
And we realise that in order to manage both roles effectively, we must, and we do appreciate that ourtotal well-being, our health, our economy, and our sustenance is dependent on the well-being and health of our world itself, just as all indigenous peoples across the globe understand their unique role of caring for and conserving Mother Earth.

BUT, is this emissions trading scheme really the answer to all our climate change problems? or is it just creating a property rights regime, to let the worlds biggest polluters continue along their merry filthy way?

Charging people for greenhouse gas emissions was supposed to encourage businesses to come up with alternatives to fossil fuel, but all it’s doing is giving them an excuse to continue – I mean why bother with the expensive long-term structural changes, if you can meet your targets by simply buying pollution rights from operations that can reduce their carbon cheaply?

To understand how this Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill will affect Maori, we looked at what it will mean for Crown Forestry.

In a report calledMaori Impacts from Emissions Trading Scheme, we get a clear understanding of the responsibility Maori owners of Crown Forest Licence Lands have, and I quote:
In determining what constitutes a fair, equitable and proportionate burden, Maori are assumed to be concerned with their level of economic development relative to non-Maori (as a consequence of past Crown actions or otherwise) as well as their relative contribution to New Zealand’s green house gas emissions”.

But Mr Speaker, there is no simple solution to this problem, particularly with so many factors at play, and to meet the challenges posed by greenhouse gas emissions, we need to be creative and innovative.

Furthermore, there is the question about whether or not, the 55 million carbon credits due to be allocated to pre 1990 forests under the proposed Act for Crown Forestry Lands, should be allocated as part of treaty settlements, and here’s where it all gets kinda tricky because naturally, government officials say that claimants should have to buy their carbon credits out of their settlement monies, whereas Maori involved with Crown Forestry Rental lands, quite rightly say that those carbon credits should be treated like accumulated rental, separate to their settlements.
Mr Speaker, the Maori Party supports the advice from theClimate Change Iwi Leadership Group and theMaori Reference Group that carbon credits should be allocated on the same basis as accumulated rental held by the Crown Forestry Rental Trust.

In other words, once you acquire Crown Forestry Land you get your carbon credits, or equivalent monetary, value over and above your settlement.
We don’t see the sense in making claimants buy these carbon credits from their settlement. In fact, we believe that to make them do so, would constitute a further breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.
I mean, claimants aren’t the reason these lands are not in Maori ownership, and Maori should not be doubly punished for this, while still being denied the same opportunities, as other New Zealand owners of pre 1990 exotic forest lands.

We also note the concerns of the NZ council for infrastructure development that this legislation could place a ten year ban on thermal energy.

We have particular interest in this given the contribution that Tuaropaki Trust is making to geothermal power through Mokai 1. Tuaropaki Trust, which comprises hapu of Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngati Raukawa is an ahu whenua trust which is fast advancing progress in efficient thermal generation and we will be extremely interested to hear from their chairperson, Tumanako Wereta, about the implications of this Bill for them.

Mr Speaker, as I said earlier, there are some huge issues in this Bill – issues which will linger long after urgency has been lifted.

We welcome the opportunity for iwi to reflect on the issues that emerged at the National Climate Change hui in October, and the National Maori Forestry Hui held just last month, and we recommend in the strongest manner that all Maori interested in this debate, make sure they get along to the next national hui on this Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill which will be held at 1pm, on Tue 18 Dec 2007, at the Brentwood Hotel in Wellington.

We can’t just leave this to chance.

We must manage both the opportunity and the risk that presents itself with this Bill, and so we will support it at first reading to enable those debates to be had.

ENDS

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