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Govt. climate change policy in tatters?

Govt. climate change policy in tatters?


Forest and Bird is urging the Government to put climate change back into the Resource Management Act (RMA) after the Government’s announcement today that it was abandoning a carbon charge.

“We’re very disappointed at this U-turn by the Government. What’s worse is that the Government doesn’t seem to know what to do instead,” said Forest and Bird’s Senior Researcher Barry Weeber.

“The Government dropped consideration of climate change from RMA consents because it was introducing a carbon charge instead. Now that it has abandoned the carbon charge, the Government should put consideration of climate change back into the RMA,” he said.

“Climate change has been globally recognised as a major threat to birds and other species and could result in the loss of biodiversity,” he said.

“Here in New Zealand, a trend towards higher temperatures and lower rainfall in the Chatham Islands has impacted on northern royal albatross. If this trend continues, the population will decrease by about 40% over the next 20 years,” he said.

“Climate change appears to be causing more frequent pest plagues in native forests that are the main cause of decline for birds like mohua (yellowhead) and whio (blue duck),” he said.

“The Government had previously proposed introducing a modest carbon charge in 2007. The carbon charge had been widely supported by environmental groups.”

“New Zealanders are amongst the most wasteful users of energy on the planet. If the rest of the world used energy like we do in New Zealand, the planet would be even worse off. We may not be big on the world stage, but we do set an example. At the moment it is a bad one,” he said.

“The solution is to use energy more efficiently and generate new electricity without creating greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon charge was a crucial mechanism to get people used to using less fossil fuels.”

“The current wave of enthusiasm for infrastructure development and environmentally harmful coal mining is doing nothing to limit New Zealand’s impact on the climate,” he said.

Notes

Over the next 45 years New Zealand needs to reduce emissions by 50 to 60 percent if we are to stabilise greenhouse gas levels.

The carbon charge was proposed to be set at $15 per tonne of carbon which would raise about $360 million. This would of increased the price of petrol by about four cents a litre and of power by about one cent per unit of electricity.

Climate change has serious consequences for New Zealand. These include:

* Reductions in agricultural output from a destabilised and more extreme climate

* Increased severity and frequency of natural hazards such as coastal erosion, sea level rise, flooding and cyclones

* New pests and diseases that threaten agriculture, biodiversity and human health

* Increased pressure on New Zealand’s threatened species

Climate change will reduce and force shifts in the range of many bird species. Many will not be able to move fast enough or in concert with other species. This will result in extinctions. One recent global study estimated that 15-37 percent of species could be committed to extinction by 2050 as a consequence of climate change. For example declines in the numbers of sooty shearwaters or titi in the North East Pacific has been attributed to changes in ocean surface temperature associated with climate change.

Climate change will often act in combination with major threats such as alien invasive species and habitat loss, making their impacts considerably worse.

The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by over 150 countries and New Zealand committed to stabilise 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. In contrast, European countries are committed to a 5 percent reduction.

The recent meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol committed to extending the Kyoto Protocol and looking at “realizing the full potential of market-based opportunities”. A carbon charge is a market based instrument.

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