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NZ "isolated" on key Copenhagen issues: Key

NZ "a little isolated" on its key Copenhagen issues, says Key

by Pattrick Smellie

Dec. 14 (BusinessWire) - New Zealand's special interest climate change topics are hardly getting a look-in at the global climate change summit in Copenhagen, Prime Minister John Key told his post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon.

Key also made it clear that New Zealand could not make a commitment to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years by the 30% cuts now being offered by the European Union, as the talks enter their second week and the crucial two day world leaders' summit on Thursday and Friday this week.

Key leaves for Copenhagen this evening, with an offer from New Zealand to cut emissions by between 10 and 20% by 2020, subject to the commitments of other countries.

A 30% cut was "not achievable from New Zealand's perspective, short of someone developing a technology that we don't know about yet," Key said, referring to the 48% of the country's GHG emissions produced by pastoral farming.

There were not yet technological solutions to control methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock, although New Zealand's bid to form a global scientific alliance to work on agricultural emissions mitigation seeks answers in the longer term.

As a developed economy with an unusual carbon footprint, dominated by agricultural emissions and with large plantation forests available as carbon sinks, New Zealand has some highly specific issues at Copenhagen.

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Poor outcomes in the land use, land use change and foresty (LULUCF) negotiations could seriously compromise New Zealand's ability to sequester carbon efficiently in plantation forests, and create a multi-billion dollar fiscal shock in the early 2020's when today's pine forests are felled. The exact cost will depend on the price of carbon.

Under existing Kyoto Protocol rules, all the carbon caught in a tree is counted as being released when felled, despite the likelihood that the carbon release will happen slowly since wood contributes to buildings, furniture and other uses that continue to hold carbon for many years.

For now, those forests are compensating for the fact that New Zealand's GHG emissions have risen by 24% since 1990, one of the worst records in the OECD, and almost entirely reflecting successful increases in agricultural productivity, including dairy conversion. New Zealand was supposed to have lowered emissions to 1990 levels by now - a feat achieved by almost no countries outside the UK, Germany and collapsed Soviet economies.

"One step at a time," said Key on the complex LULUCF issues. "New Zealand is a little isolated in wanting those changes. It is more significant to New Zealand than it is to most other countries. I wouldn't want to be claiming victory yet."

(BusinessWire) 17:35:44

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