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Govt throws drowning polar bears a lump of coal

Govt throws drowning polar bears a lump of coal for Xmas

**Auckland**, 20 December, 2005:* In the wake of the costliest disaster year on record (1), and scientific projections of more rapid temperature rises and more severe impacts from climate change the Government is going backwards on climate change action, says Greenpeace.

“Dropping the carbon tax shows a remarkable absence of leadership across Parliament on the most catastrophic problem facing the planet,” said Greenpeace Campaigner Steve Abel today. “Greenpeace always maintained that the carbon tax was not hefty enough – but the response should have been to increase it, not drop it.”

“The Government has dropped the last meaningful policy from its package of action on climate change. Basically, Dunne and Peters said, ‘jump’ and Labour said ‘how high?’ ”

Climate change is already hitting hard and is expected to get a lot worse if we do nothing. Scientists last week released a new study showing more polar bears may be drowning due to the shrinking ice cap - they face extinction within the century (2); farmers in New Zealand are being hammered by droughts, storm damage and floods and people are losing their homes here and abroad in extreme weather events.

Carbon charges – putting a cost on emissions of the key gas which causes climate change: carbon dioxide – are an inspired idea. They mean taxing something we want less of – pollution, and encouraging what we want more of – clean and efficient industry and transport. The carbon charge would particularly make the dirtiest industries, like the coal industry, pay a little for the pollution they produce. That’s only fair because right now that pollution costs us all – in health costs and in the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change.

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“Those economic signals are essential for getting business to clean up its act – which is why the dirtiest and least efficient industries are so against carbon tax,” said Abel. Meanwhile the international insurance industry, such as Swiss Re, supports carbon taxes as a way forward (3) and the International Energy Agency has recently criticised Australia for not putting a price on carbon (4).

In the absence of a carbon charge, the Marsden B proposal – the first major coal-fired power station in the country for over 25 years, could go ahead with absolutely no consideration of climate change at any stage (5).

* Greenpeace calls on the Government to immediately:

- Enact meaningful legislation to bring down emissions now,

- Amend the RMA to make it clear that councils must take climate change into account when considering high C02 emission projects like coal-fired power stations,

- Call an immediate halt to Marsden B at the very least until some other method of considering climate effects of this project is in place,

- Urgently develop a sustainable energy strategy for New Zealand which will see a phase out of fossil fuels and transition to a 100% renewable energy electricity sector.

- Carry out a full cost analysis of the impacts of climate change on New Zealand including environmental, economic and social.


(1) Severe weather around the world has made 2005 the most costly year on record, with unprecedented levels of insurance claims on damaged property, according to the UN Environment Programme. Preliminary estimates made by insurance company Munich Re Foundation put the year's financial losses at more than $282 billion, with insurance claims running at more than US$70 billion. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=26&objectid=10358912

(2) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1938132,00.html

(3) http://www.climatechangefutures.org/ page 109

(4) http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/32996/story.htm

(5) The ability of local councils to directly consider greenhouse gas emissions was altered by a Government amendment to the RMA in 2004. Section 104E of the RMA now states that consent authorities must not have regard to the effects of discharges on climate change, except to the extent that the use and development of renewable energy enables a reduction in the discharge into air of greenhouse gases.

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