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Vested interests alter deal Minister kept in dark

Vested interests alter deal – Minister kept in dark

Auckland July 30 2008- Greenpeace has uncovered information confirming the Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) kept its minister in the dark over crucial changes to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Government and the agriculture sector (1).

The Ministry is now refusing to release the rationale for the changes, which could mean a bill of $120 million for taxpayers.

The MOU has been widely cited as the reason for keeping the agriculture sector out of the emissions trading scheme (ETS) until 2013 (2). It has also been linked to the huge quantity of free permits being allocated to the sector once it's in the scheme (3).

In exchange for these exemptions, the sector, via the Pastoral (Greenhouse Gas Research) Consortium, pledged to find ways to reduce agricultural emissions by 20 per cent.

With no consultation, and without notifying the Minister, the consortium and MAF sliced that target in half, to 10 per cent. MAF is refusing to release the rationale for the decision, saying it's not in the public interest to do so.

"The 10 per cent reduction in targeted emission cuts equates to over $120 million in terms of the cost of those emissions under Kyoto," said Greenpeace Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer.

"You tell me how it's not in the public interest to know how a bill to taxpayers of $120 million came about."

Greenpeace is demanding the MOU be torn up and agriculture held accountable for its emissions. "The sector has clearly reneged on its part of the deal, therefore the deal is null and void and agriculture should be brought in under the ETS on or before 2010."

He said many questions remained, and the whole process lacked transparency. "Why was the target changed? Why wasn't the Minister told? Is this part of MAF's curious insistence that there is little to be done to reduce agricultural emissions, when this is simply not true? MAF refuses to reveal any details, citing not only public interest, but also a confidentiality clause with the consortium (3). Surely this is a conflict of interest on the part of the Ministry.

"A major agreement relating to half of all New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions and costing New Zealand taxpayers dearly all rests on these bizarre back room negotiations. New Zealanders deserve some answers."

As well as calling for the agricultural sector to be brought into the ETS by 2010, Greenpeace is campaigning for New Zealand to set an emissions reduction target of 30 per cent by 2020.


Notes to Editor:

(1) The information was released under the Official Information Act. It comprised a letter from Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton outlining documents held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, reasons for refusing to release the contents of the documents, and email correspondence between his office, MAF and Climate Change Minister David Parker's Office.

(2) a) http://www.maf.govt.nz/climatechange/slm/poa/page-03.htm – "The Government has decided in principle to bring all agricultural emissions into the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) on 1 January 2013, and not to introduce any other price-based measures in the interim. This decision reflects undertakings given by the Government as part of its 2003 Memorandum of Understanding with key agriculture representatives and acknowledges the operational challenges of bringing agriculture into the ETS."

b) New Zealand's GHG emissions- Policies and Approaches, a presentation by AgResearch's Harry Clark – page 26 - " 1 January, 2013 entry date, to honour the 2003 Memorandum of Understanding..."

(3) Page 109 of The Framework of NZ ETS document; published in September 2007 by the Ministry for the Environment and The Treasury - 6.6.2.4 Allocation: 
"The total level of free allocation when the agricultural sector enters the ETS in 2013 is defined as 90 per cent of 2005 levels of emissions. This is the same approach as that used to define the total allocation to industry and is 
relatively close to the target that was outlined in the Memorandum ofUnderstanding signed between the Crown and the agricultural sector in 2002. (ref 74)."

ENDS

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