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NZ forgoes Kyoto for new climate plan negotiations

NZ forgoes Kyoto for new climate plan negotiations – experts respond

New Zealand will not commit to a second round of Kyoto Protocol emissions reductions but will instead make pledges under the United Nations Convention Framework on Climate Change, the Government said this afternoon.

The move sees New Zealand join several of the world’s largest emitters, including the US, China and India, in negotiating a replacement treaty to Kyoto which could be approved by 2015 and in effect by 2020.

In contrast, Australia today committed to a second round of the Kyoto Protocol which will take effect from 2013.

The Science Media Centre rounded up reaction from climate scientists and climate policy experts. Please feel free to use the comments below or contact the SMC to speak to an expert.

Further comments will be added to the SMC’s website

Dr Suzi Kerr, Senior Fellow at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, comments:

“The three key issues as I see it are:

1. International perception;

2. New Zealand’s ambition between now and 2020 – e.g. 10% or 20% below 1990 on average?;

3. how New Zealand contributes to international mitigation – our ‘access to international carbon markets’

“Perception: addressing international climate change is a cooperation problem. We know from game theory, behavioural experiments and experience with local commons (e.g. Ostrom) that humans can cooperate to solve problems. We also know that in order to do that they need to build trust and reward/penalise each other based on historical behaviour. It is hard to tell what a country’s true climate mitigation effort is. It is important to both contribute our share to climate change mitigation and also have others perceive that we are contributing our share. That will give others confidence to increase their own contribution without feeling that they might be ‘suckers’. Can New Zealand leave Kyoto but maintain the perception that we are committed to the global effort? That will depend on our commitments.

“New Zealand’s ambition: We need to provide clarity on what exactly our target will be and how it will be measured. This could be expressed as a carbon price to apply in our economy (independent of international markets – following Australia’s example), or, if we can create effective and credible ways to support mitigation in developing countries it could be a quantitative ‘responsibility target’ (we either mitigate within NZ or pay for it to be done elsewhere) that aims at a similar level of stringency; or a combination of both, particularly while only some sectors are covered by the ETS and we continue to protect some activities against leakage.

“If leaving Kyoto means we diverge from Kyoto measurement rules, we will need to be very clear on what this means for the stringency of our commitment, possibly reporting in both ways.

“How do we contribute to mitigation in developing countries? Currently we do this primarily through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) (but also through research cooperation such as the Global Research Alliance). The CDM is a flawed mechanism because it has high transaction costs, focuses on a few large developing countries and has dubious environmental integrity. Several New Zealanders are working on ways to create an alternative approach, for example through supporting development of emissions trading systems in developing countries that have clear targets and strong compliance mechanisms.

“If these were created, we could link to them and purchase emission units with confidence that they represent real emission reductions. We may be able to do this more effectively outside Kyoto where we can experiment on our own or in collaboration with a small group of countries.

“Many other countries, and much of the most interesting and promising action on climate mitigation is now taking place outside of the Kyoto Protocol. The challenge is to make this a positive step for climate mitigation and cooperation and not an opt out.”


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