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The True Cost of Not Taxing Carbon

2 December 2005

The True Cost of Not Taxing Carbon

WWF-New Zealand, part of the global conservation network, today called upon the New Zealand government to stand firm on introducing a carbon tax in April 2007.

In 2005, New Zealand ranked eighth highest among developed countries in global greenhouse gas emission increases since 1990. Greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 22.5% in the past 15 years. This was significantly higher than the United States with a 13.3% increase and just behind Australia with a recorded increase in emissions of 23.3%.

“Climate change is already costing New Zealanders. As a nation, we are now faced with the choice of how we recognise and pay for that cost,” says Melanie Hutton, WWF-New Zealand’s Climate Change Programme Leader.

“Axing the carbon tax won’t stop the effects and costs of climate change. As just one example, the 1997-99 Canterbury drought cost $230 million at the farm gate alone and around a billion dollars of tax payer money nationally.

“Any economic activity which releases carbon is contributing to climate change.”

As a nation we need to explore the generation of clean electricity and increase energy efficiency, which in the long term will save households money. A carbon tax gives a financial incentive for people to stop climate change and its impact on our economy and our environment. With carbon pollution, there will always be a price to pay.

Avoiding dangerous climate change can only be achieved by significantly and rapidly reducing carbon emissions into our atmosphere. Internationally, scientists are warning of catastrophic climate events occurring within 10 years if emission trends continue at the current alarming rate.

“United First and National’s position is ill informed and short sighted. There is a far greater problem already facing all New Zealanders – the increasing impacts and looming costs associated with climate change. The best outcome is to stop delaying the government process which has already gone through an extensive assessment and democratic public submission process. The time to argue against the tax has gone,” says Ms Hutton.

EDITOR’S NOTES: Climate change impacts in New Zealand are:

Temperature Projected average NZ changes in annual mean temperature from 1990s to 2030s is from 0.2 to 1.3 degrees Celsius. Increases in temperature would mean the Canterbury foothills would become about 20% drier, while the Southern Alps would be about 25% wetter and experience more snowfall. Flooding could become up to four times as frequent by 2070. The warmer conditions could also benefit crop and pasture growth.

Drought risk Two to four fold increases in the incidence of severe drought across already drought prone regions including many eastern parts of New Zealand by the 2080s. The study covers all of New Zealand, and finds possible increases in drought risk in inland and northern parts of Otago, eastern Canterbury and Marlborough, parts of the Wairarapa, Hawkes Bay, the Bay of Plenty, the Coromandel Peninsula and parts of Northland. Under a medium-high scenario, Marlborough could see what is considered a one in 20 year drought event today occurring every three to five years by the 2080s. It uses projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and internationally recognised climate models.

Fire risk A combination of strong winds, high temperatures, low humidity and seasonal drought will bring an increased risk of fire. This will particularly affect Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Nelson, and in the east of both islands from Gisborne to Wairarapa and Marlborough to Canterbury.

Water Drought will have a significant effect on river flows. Rivers which that have their catchments in drought prone areas will have less water in them. This will directly impact farms, providing less water for irrigation, electricity generation providing less water in hydro dams and householders providing less water for town supplies.

Ocean temperature Changing ocean temperatures are a genuine threat to New Zealand's fishing industry where the sustainability of deepwater species are being threatened by changes in ocean temperature. Scientists have revealed a deep warming of the Tasman Sea since 1996, possibly as a result of El Nino weather patterns. This warming has coincided with a drop-off in Hoki numbers.

WWF is now known simply by its initials and the panda logo


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