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Paris Agreement Could Be Ratified This Year – Bennett

Paris Agreement Could Be Ratified This Year – Minister Bennett

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett told TV One’s Q+A programme that “ratifying is a really big, important step. US and China have already said they’re going to, and President Xi and President Obama doing that, I think, was quite significant.”

The Minister told TV One’s US correspondent Jack Tame that she hopes to make up her mind within a month as to a timeframe for NZ to ratify the agreement and only after she has sought advice from officials.

“I’d like to do it in 2016, because I think it has symbolism with it. And I could, but then I’m not sure that that lowers our emissions or gets us in the actual plan of what we’re going to do,” she said.


Here’s the video version: http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/climate-change-paris-agreement-signed-video-6464414

Q + A
Episode 97
Interviewed by Jack Tame

PAULA I mean, the significance of signing is huge. I mean, you certainly get that sense — you get the sense of there's presidents and prime ministers and heads of state and ministers all here from — I've heard anything from170 to 190 countries. They're literally all signing. It's historic. It's the first time in one day you've had everyone signing up to something. So let's not underestimate what has happened, and what's happening right now and just how important that is. But as you say, it's the actions that come next. So ratifying is a really big, important step. U.S and China have already said they're going to, and President Xi and President Obama doing that, I think, was quite significant. We've got a process to go through. And I want to make sure we do that properly. So I’d like to do it in 2016, because I think it has symbolism with it. And I could, but then I’m not sure that that lowers our emissions or gets us in the actual plan of what we're going to do.

JACK Okay. So what is the likelihood it'll be done this year?

PAULA I could do it, but I’m seeking advice from officials. And I haven't made up my mind.

JACK When will you make up your mind?
PAULA Within the next month, I would think.

JACK I want to pivot quickly to the ETS. As you know, a report by the Morgan
Foundation has concluded New Zealand, in their words, effectively 'cheated' its way to commitments made under Kyoto by trading in international carbon credits that were of dubious integrity at best. Do you accept that term? Cheating?

PAULA I accept, actually, that there were dubious carbon credits last year when the Stockholm report came out. So, actually, the Morgan report's nothing new. So half of it is kind of right, you know? Yes, there were dubious credits. We found out. We're not using them now. We don't hold any of them. And we definitely won't again. And then, quite frankly, the other half of his report is factually incorrect.

JACK What part is factually incorrect?
PAULA He sort of said that we use 97%, for example, to pay off our obligation
To Kyoto, and that's not true.

JACK But we did continue trading on those credits for a long period When other countries abandoned them.
PAULA Yes, I think we did, and I think we did right up to June 15, really. The government never bought any. It was businesses that did and then surrendered them to government. So we had some, but we weren't actually purchasing them ourselves from overseas.

JACK But the government allowed that trading, allowed that international trading.

PAULA Yes, they did. And under the UN rules, that was allowed. And so did pretty much every other country that was doing it.
JACK So you don't accept that was cheating?

PAULA I don't accept— I certainly accept it was not the right thing to do. And so I’m not going to sit here and say that it's not. I think cheating's his language and it's just a bit of hyperbole to try and make it all sound more interesting.

JACK But it said it wasn't in the spirit of the agreement to the commitments made under Kyoto.

PAULA But it's in the rules, okay? And so the UN set the rules, and it was in the rules that we could buy international credits. I think that when they were initially purchased, those did think that they were okay. And then I think that should they have been used as part of our obligation and that sort of thing? Probably not.

JACK Okay. How do we rectify that?

PAULA I think the question is would we do it again? And the answer to that is definitely not.

JACK But I think the question is how do we make up for that shortfall?

PAULA I don't.

JACK However many million dollars—

PAULA I just think that we've just signed the Paris agreement. We've got a huge opportunity to make a real difference. We've got this major target that is not going to be easy for New Zealand to reach. And that's where our attention should go to. So that's what I’m concentrating on, and we will not do it again. There will definitely not be the use of dodgy international credits again.

JACK But how do you come to New York and say, 'These are our commitments. Yeah, sure, the last time we had commitments, we reached them by purchasing credits of dubious quality when internationally, these things were slagged off.' Now you come here and say, 'Believe us this time. We're not gonna buy credits of dubious quality.'

PAULA Well, we did some, right. So let's—we've gotta keep it in perspective here, that probably nearly 80%, from what I’ve seen, were not dodgy credits. But there were a small percentage. I think we've acknowledged that. We've got to draw a line in the sand and, as a country, seriously look at how we lower our emissions and how we're actually gonna get ourselves to a place of treating our planet better.

JACK Would it not be a stronger thing for the government to come to New York and say, 'Yes, we've made a mistake. We're going to rectify this by either making up that shortfall in credits that were of dubious quality by purchasing extra ones, or making greater commitments in the future.' Wouldn't that be in the spirit of the Paris agreement and in the previous commitments under Kyoto?

PAULA I've sought advice on what we might do, actually, for our 2020 target. So, is there space for us to be looking at surrendering more? We hold none of them, of any more of the dodgy, but should we surrender some of our 'good' credits, if you like, to try and make up for that? And I’ll take that advice. But to be honest, I just think we've got such a big job to do. And I feel like we've got such great momentum to do it. We haven't broken any rules.
JACK We haven't broken rules, But it's not in the spirit of these agreements. So wouldn't it be a stronger thing to be able to either make up the shortfall or to say, 'You know what? We failed our way through the system last time. It wasn't in the spirit of it. We're going to increase our commitments.'
PAULA What I would say is we were one of very few countries that actually signed up a) to Kyoto and then had an emissions trading scheme.
There were things that were done in that that we wouldn't do now. We have learnt from them. We have identified what they were and we will move on and not do it again. And so, if anything, I’ve got other countries saying to me here, 'Can we learn both by what you've done well and the mistakes you've made?' And, actually, that does happen as you've got a new, very complicated emissions trading scheme.
So, look, I’m not ruling it out, but I’ve gotta tell you, it's not my main focus right now. I think we've got a big job to do in just reaching our next target.

JACK Under Paris, New Zealand's commitment to reduce 30% by 2030, if you had been the climate change minister last year when these commitments were made — and I appreciate you've had the portfolio for four months — what target would you have pushed for?
PAULA I would have pushed for that one. I mean, I was part of a cabinet that agreed to it. I sign up to it, and I think it is ambitious, and I think we're going to have to change some of the way we do things to reach it.
JACK Do you accept that New Zealand’s commitments are more in line with a 3-4 degree Celsius rise in temperature?

PAULA I think that we are playing our part in that we do support certainly under 2. We think that 1.5 is a bit of a stretch. But the reality is reaching our target — even the 2030 one that we've set — is gonna cost us more per person per GDP than most of the other countries because of our emissions profile.

JACK But do you accept that our target is more in the range of a 3-4 degree temperature?
PAULA Well, maybe, but I think it's more because of what our emissions profile is, which is having agriculture at nearly 50%, which is unusual.

JACK Maybe or yes, do you think?
PAULA Well, I’m not sure.

JACK You're not sure?
PAULA So I can't tell you straight off the top of my head right now, no.

JACK Okay, okay. Do you accept that a global temperature rise of 3-4 degrees would potentially be catastrophic?

PAULA Absolutely.
JACK So why is this the best we can do?

PAULA Look, I’d like to do better, but I’m saying that actually even reaching that is hugely ambitious and going to take significant change from government, business, citizens themselves. And I think that if we reach that, we'll be playing our part.

JACK Okay. What's the significant change?

PAULA Yeah, well, that's where it gets to being really interesting. So we need to move our renewable energies from 80 to 90, and we have to see a change in agricultural emissions. A lot of that is our investment in research and the global alliance research and particularly in agriculture; the way that we farm and how we do it; the transport; our use of fossil fuels — we can certainly do better there. There's a range of things and not just one answer.

JACK Seems to me this is the elephant in the room when it comes to New Zealand’s emissions profile. A third of our emissions come from the agriculture sector —slightly more, perhaps. This is a very simple question. What does this government value more? Our agricultural industry or climate change?

PAULA We're just not gonna pick one.

JACK Why not?

PAULA Because we don't have to. And, actually, agriculture's damned important to us as far as a food source, as far as what it does — 85% exported. It matters to the rest of the world. We actually have a— It is jobs, It is part of who we are. And I think we can do that more effectively that's not affecting the climate like it is. So we don't have to choose one or the other.

JACK What would a 3-4 degree temperature rise globally do to our agricultural industry?
PAULA So you're telling me that if I reduce agriculture by however many percent as being part of our emissions profile, then I would reduce the temperature of the sea by another one or 2%? That's just simply not true.
JACK But I’m saying it all plays into the bigger picture, isn't it? It's well and good buying credits on an international market, but at the end of the day, we're still emitting an enormous amount of methane, and I wonder where the line in the sand is; how warm it has to get before we say, 'You know what? We have to aggressively promote alternative industries in New Zealand because we value climate change more than our agricultural sector.' I wonder where that line in the sand is.

PAULA I just think you're wrong. So, I think you're trying to play one off against the other, And I think we can get smarter; we can have better farming practices, but actually it doesn't need to be at the expense of killing cows and actually effectively killing jobs; and that we can do both; and that there is a real determination by the agricultural sector themselves to actually investigate ways that they can reduce those emissions and methane. And we're committed to helping them do it. And I think we will see results there, but it's not an either-or.
JACK But at the moment these are mutually exclusive priorities, aren't they?

PAULA I don't think so. I think that there's a genuine commitment to reduce methane emissions, and I think that the government is stepping up there and so is the agricultural sector.
JACK Our actual emissions haven't dropped. We're buying carbon credits on an international market, but our actual emissions — the methane being pumped into the air — hasn't changed.
PAULA And that's our biggest challenge. That's why 2030 is hugely ambitious. And that's why I’m not ratifying in the next couple of months, because I could easily just turn around and tick a box and say, 'Yes, we'll do ratification. Yes, we'll meet that.' But, actually, I want to bend that curve. I want to see our emissions reducing. But it's not gonna be government alone that does it. It has to be changes from citizens themselves, certainly from businesses, certainly from agriculture, and in the way that we are transporting ourselves around the country. So that's a big plan, you know? That doesn't have me get that together in four months. And I could do an easy box tick, and I’m not going to. So it is about getting all of those players in. It's not going to be— I can't do it, you know? It's not up to me alone. It is really up to New Zealand and up to the changes that they're prepared to make, and especially in business as well.

JACK Would getting that two-for-one under the ETS allowance for agriculture — would scrapping that immediately be something that would promote us?

PAULA I think it's really important. I think it's really important to show that that was there for a time when we were there in the GFC. And I’ve indicated that certainly I’m supportive of it going. It's just a matter of us working out the when and where.

JACK How soon is it possible?
PAULA You'll have to wait and see because that's a decision that needs to be made.
JACK This year?

PAULA A decision will be made in the next couple of months, so it'll be announced.

JACK I know you've spoken as minister about the word 'ambitious' and wanting to be ambitious. Can you just tell me what that means in practical terms?

PAULA Yeah, for me it means exactly —it means reducing our emissions. So it doesn't mean just ticking a box and saying that we've done our bit. For me it means turning round and knowing that we are leaving New Zealand in a better place because we are actually reducing the emissions that we're putting out there. And that— bending that curve from everything I’m looking at and everything I’m reading, is not going to be easy. But I reckon New Zealand's up for the challenge.

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