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Flavell Speech: Climate Change Response Amendment

Climate Change Response Amendment Bill; Third Reading

Te Ururoa Flavell, Spokesperson for the Environment; Maori Party

Thursday 9 November 2006

Mr Speaker, the emails came in fast and furious after the second reading of the Climate Change response amendment Bill on the 25th October. One email was particularly vivid in its response, and I quote:

“All the big noise about climate change, interviews from all sectors…when the reality is that they are all ‘johnny-come-latelys’.

No-one is talking or asking the view of the indigenous people, Maori, Aborigine, Inuit, Native American, Papuan etc. We hold the key to the Earth’s survival, and they dismiss you as you would a child who asks intuitive questions”.

Never one to shirk from a challenge, I thought it only fitting to bring to the House, a copy of the indigenous peoples statement from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change some four years ago, in November 2002.

Sacred Relationship with Mother Earth

The statement refers to the sacred relationship with Mother Earth which binds indigenous people to conserve the biodiversity for the survival of present and future generations.

The perilous state of the earth as we are challenged by global warming and climate change is evidenced in the melting of polar ice caps, the inconsistency of the seasons, the rising seas, food and water shortages, species extinction and massive loss of lives and homes.

Traditional ways of life are being affected by the damage of climate change, particularly in forest, wetland, river and coastal areas.

Set against this wider international, indigenous perspective then, what will this Bill, do, to make the positive difference for Mother Earth?

In ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Aotearoa has made the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 5% below 1990 levels, from 2008 to 2012.

And it couldn’t have come a day too soon.

The fact that we are the fourth highest nation amongst developed nations in the emission of greenhouse gases is hardly something to boast about.

Or the fact that New Zealand’s emissions are growing significantly faster than those of Australia.

Nor the fact that Carbon emissions have increased faster than population and GDP, leaving us in the dubious position of more than twice the world average, and are above the OECD average.

So this Bill, amends the Climate Change Response Act 2002 to allow entities other than the Crown to hold accounts in the Kyoto Protocol Registry and to trade in emission units.

Contradiction of carbon trade in the context of climate change

The Crown thus gives tradeable emission units in exchange for carbon.

At the second reading speech my colleague, Tariana Turia, raised the issues associated with the actions of Christchurch City Council who have sold carbon credits to British Gas.

There is, of course a very significant contradiction inherent, in the relationship of carbon credits to climate change.

If we take as a basic premise, that climate change is about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, surely the desired outcome is that emissions need to be reduced.

If industry polluters are able to purchase carbon credits to offset their polluting emissions, and yet still make no apparent effort to reduce emissions, the core problem remains.

Responsibility lies in human hands

The hub of the problem, Mr Speaker, is that most global warming over the last 150 years is attributable to human activity.

The answer, therefore, lies in our hands, human hands.

All of us have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure we assist this nation in not putting more carbon into the atmosphere than we are able to offset by other means.

Indigenous peoples across the globe understand their role and responsibility as being a unique one in conserving Mother Earth. But it is not an exclusive duty that we hold.

We, the Maori Party, believe that if we are going to reverse, to mitigate or to halt in their flow any of the catastrophes that stand to threaten Papatuanuku, that urgent and specific attention must be accorded this issue by all peoples of this land.

Forests Act

The second major thrust of the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill is to extend the regulation-making powers of the Forests Act 1949.

The proposal is to establish a mechanism to allow landowners to access the value of carbon from newly established permanent forest sinks.

Such an arrangement, created under the Kyoto Protocol, may result in the promotion of forestation for erosion control and other environmental concerns, and the promotion of forestry for economic development and employment promotion in particular regions.

We are aware that Ngati Porou Whanui Forests are very keen for this Bill to be supported, as they recognise that they, and other iwi, will be able to make income by trading the carbon credits accumulated in their forest assets.

They believe that they are able to make money before the harvesting of forests – and as such it is a totally new income stream.

Or alternatively, they are able to make money by planting permanent forests on isolated or erodable land not suitable for farming and harvesting forestry.

To this end, of course the Maori Party will support the priorities expressed by whanau, hapu and iwi, in their aspirations for cultural, economic, social, environmental and spiritual wealth.

There is no greater goal for many of our people, than for whanau, hapu and iwi to be actively participating and succeeding in the economy.

But we draw the House’s attention, once more, to the concept of a Genuine Progress Index, which differentiates between positive contributions to progress, and negative activity.

We are aware that forestry can also be harmful to the environment.

We understand that some hapu and iwi have been undertaking research into forestation and deforestation which could be useful in underpinning our future developments.

What we know is that deforestation to create pasture lands, and subsequent pine forestry, has caused a whole host of environmental problems for land and waterway ecosystems.

Pine needles and sap are poisonous, allowing no secondary or tertiary forest floor growth. Thus the natural layering found in indigenous forests, where other flora and fauna form part of the ecosystem, is not found – pine is very much a mono-crop.

After three rotations of pine, the ground has effectively been rendered sour and useless for any other crops for many generations. There are obvious implications for whanau wanting to develop land-based sustainability.

We must always bear in mind the checks and balances that come with any situation – the costs of deforestation for future growth.

Finally, I draw the House once more back to the Indigenous people’s caucus from the eighth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In that statement, the indigenous caucus concluded:

“Our duty as indigenous peoples, to Mother Earth impels us to demand that we be provided adequate opportunity to participate fully and actively at all levels of local, national, regional and international decision-making processes and mechanisms on climate change”.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party is proud to stand in the House, to contribute to the debate and discussions around climate change, and to vote in support of the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill.


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