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Why NZ wasn’t at the Climate Change Conference

13 January 2006

Why New Zealand wasn’t at the Sydney Climate Change Conference

Alasdair Thompson from the Employers and Manufacturers Association has asked why New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister wasn’t at the recent Sydney Climate Change Conference. The reasons are that it wasn’t a conference, it wasn’t open to the public and New Zealand wasn’t invited.

The Sydney event (earlier this week) was a meeting of the newly formed Asia Pacific Pact on Climate Change. It is a multi-lateral meeting of governments that are parties to that Pact. New Zealand is not a party and should not be because the Pact is unlikely to achieve much. It is basically a grouping of the anti-Kyoto club lead by the USA and Australia.

It won’t achieve much because it relies entirely on a voluntary approach. The lessons from the climate change efforts of the mid-1990s are that such approaches don’t work. It was precisely because of the failure of the voluntary approach under the United Framework Convention on Climate Change that Kyoto was enacted.

Unlike the new Pact, Kyoto puts a price on carbon and sets firm emission reduction targets for developed countries to meet. That is the only way that markets are going to respond adequately to the greenhouse challenge.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association should recognise more than most that economic instruments are the best way of giving clear unequivocal signals to markets that they can then trust and respond to.

It is far better to put a price on carbon and leave it to business to devise the best way to respond. Utilising a complicated mix of subsidies and encouraging rhetoric to achieve government policy is a blast from the past and we’ve moved way beyond that.

The new Pact may achieve something: for the sake of our warming climate one hopes so. But it is no alternative to effective, concerted global action such as proposed under the Kyoto umbrella. After the Montreal summit in December it is clear that Kyoto is in resurgence notwithstanding American efforts to undermine it. Indeed, the US negotiator walked out of that summit and then had to return when not a single nation joined him.

It is noteworthy that of all the developed countries, only the USA and Australia are outside the Kyoto framework.

If The Employers and Manufacturers Association want to attend a conference specifically designed to enable discussion between business and governments in the Asia-Pacific region, they should attend the 2nd Australia-New Zealand Climate Change and Business Conference in Adelaide on 20-21 February. New Zealand’s Minister for Climate Change Affairs Hon David Parker is peaking at that one. And unlike the recent Sydney event, this conference is open for all to attend.


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