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Minister hopes for broad political sign up to ETS

18 August 2009

Media Release

Minister hopes for broad political sign up to emissions trading scheme

The Minister for Climate Changes Issues has told business leaders he hopes for a settled emissions trading scheme attracting broad political sign up.

Hon Dr Nick Smith, also Environment Minister, says New Zealand has not been served well by policy flip flops by both main political parties during the past 14 years, during which both firstly favoured a carbon tax, then an emissions trading scheme.

Delivering the keynote address to a dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, attended by more than 90 business leaders and their partners last night, Dr Smith said:

"We need resolution. And I accept that challenge.

"My ambition is for New Zealand is to be able to go to the major (world climate change treaty) conference in Copenhagen with a settled emission trading scheme for New Zealand and one of which there is the capacity for broad political sign up.

"In my view that would be a tremendous achievement. We would in fact be the only country outside of the European Union that would have actually got settled legislation in that area and that is my number one focus between now and Christmas," Dr Smith said.

"There's been some commentary about the fact that Australia last week had their carbon pollution scheme very similar to our own emissions trading scheme get in trouble in the senate. I would note we should not be surprised. Implementing an emissions trading scheme frankly is about as challenging as putting GST in place. It is an enormously challenging exercise in economic reform. There will be some humps and bumps in Australia as there have been some humps and bumps in New Zealand.

"I remain of the view, given the level of integration of the New Zealand and Australian economies, that it makes good sense for our response to climate change to be brought together as closely as possible. We want investment decisions being made between New Zealand and Australia, not on the basis of who's got the softest climate change policies, but actually on the basis of what is the best place to invest.

"There's been a pretty hot debate around emissions targets in recent weeks. Do not underestimate how challenging it is going to be even to get down to 10 to 20% below 1990 levels. Some have said oh it's a walk in the park. No it is not, it is a fundamental change on the basis of which our industrial economies have been based. Reference was made earlier to some of the previous environmental conferences and as a green MP in more ways than one, in 1992 In attended the Earth Summit, the world all signed up to stabilising emissions by 2000 - none did bar the Soviet States that did it for completely unrelated reasons. This stuff is really difficult. I make no apologies for the fact that this government is saying being realistic about what is achievable, being up front, and I hope as we make progress, people might say yes they may have been shorter on the promises, but they were longer on the delivery in this particularly difficult area."

Dr Smith said all of industries that form the powerhouse of the country's competitiveness, from fishing to forestry, dairy and tourism, were based on this country's natural resources, making the way they were managed important.

While New Zealanders held a whole range of different views on politics and the like, if there's any element that actually is part of the New Zealand spirit and is unique to being a New Zealander, it " is that natural environment in which we all identify with, as part of being a New Zealander. And so both in terms of economic terms but also in terms of natural character what we do with our environment it's just so critically important for us."

Dr Smith said the role that made the Business Council so unique was its ability to move beyond highly polarised argument involving "your greenies in one corner, and business in the other"

"The people who founded this organisation recognised that these polarised arguments were not serving our country well. The thinkers that established this organisation did New Zealand a tremendous favour.

"If you're actually going to be able to resolve the challenges, be they climate change, water quality, air quality, or the like, there isn't a choice for New Zealand as to whether it is clean or whether it's rich, we've got to be both. That is the dichotomy that this business council has worked hard on for a decade, made a great contribution and for which it must continue to contribute into the future."


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