Supreme Court Order A Blow To Climate
Friday 19 December 2008 – A serious blow has been dealt to the climate with a Supreme Court decision just handed down in the Genesis Energy/ Greenpeace case.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that local authorities cannot consider the climate impact of fossil-fuelled energy production can under the Resource Management Act (RMA),” said Greenpeace Campaign Manager Carmen Gravatt.
“This is very bad news for the climate; particularly because it comes on top of the Government’s relentless backtrack on climate policy and aggressive promotion of coal and gas.
“It puts New Zealand seriously out of step with the rest of the world. Climate science shows we’re running out of time to avoid dangerous climate change. The stakes are getting higher and New Zealand is not doing its bit.”
Last December, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Genesis Energy (a State Owned Enterprise which runs several thermal power stations, and wants to build a new one at Rodney, in John Key’s constituency of Helensville).
The ruling meant that councils deciding on non-renewable energy projects could not consider climate change under the RMA, hence removing a crucial legal control on polluters’ greenhouse gas emissions.
The Court of Appeal said the RMA provides local authorities with the power to take into account the likely effects of climate change, but not to give consideration to the causes of climate change. This has helped pave the way for Genesis’ proposed gas-fired power station at Rodney.
Greenpeace appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
“This State Owned Enterprise (SOE) - whose shareholders are government ministers – used public money to remove critical legal protection for the climate in New Zealand irrelevant under the law,” said Gravatt.
Gravatt said the fact Chief Justice Sian Elias dissented from the Supreme Court decision showed that the Greenpeace argument on the interpretation of the amendment had merit. “Of course we’re disappointed that the majority disagreed with the Chief Justice, and this underlines the fact that not only was the law unclear, but that it must be amended urgently to protect the climate.
“The law as it now stands could allow millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases to be emitted without any regulatory consideration of their impact on climate change. This is a serious loophole in terms of climate protection.”