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National Party member - "Why rush Climate bill?"

18 November 2009

National Party member asks what’s the rush on climate bill

Now that Prime Minister John Key has joined US President Obama in realising that there is little chance a binding treaty will be signed at the forthcoming UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, the question arises why the Government is in such a rush to pass the Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill, asks Terry Dunleavy, secretary of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.

Mr Dunleavy, a lifelong member and former office-holder in the National Party, and national convenor of its Bluegreens interest group 1999-2004, says he is astounded that the government's "headlong rush", especially in view of the division within the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee whose members were unable to agree on what should be done with the bill.

"This headlong rush is also mystifying in the light of the finding by Treasury’s Regulatory Impact Analysis Team that the level and quality of analysis presented is not commensurate with the significance of the proposals, which represent major design changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme, and that the Regulatory Impact Statement accompanying the bill does not provide an adequate basis for informed decision-making. Since then we've had the $50 billion cost underestimate by Treasury, and now a last-ditch attempt to buy the support of the Maori Party.

"Earlier this year there were two principal arguments advanced by Climate Change Minister Nick Smith: the need for harmonisation with Australia and something to put on the table at Copenhagen. The Australian Government has now backed down on agricultural emissions which it will exempt from its legislation, which will not pass in the Senate this year, if at all, but Minister Smith is persisting in his determination to penalise New Zealand farmers. As for Copenhagen, the table is now and will be bare, apart from no more than meaningless political agreements to further talkfests next year. Even Minister Smith is now on record as saying we should not be holding our breath for a post-Kyoto agreement at Copenhagen.

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"It is astonishing that the astute political leader John Key has become cannot recognise the damage being done to his party, let alone New Zealand Inc by allowing Nick Smith's obvious and irrational zealotry to overcome prudence. In particular, Mr Key should pay careful attention to what is proposed by the UNFCCC draft Copenhagen treaty text which proposes a ‘world government’ over-riding national sovereignty as well as imposing on developed nations such as New Zealand heavy liabilities to compensate developing nations for what they claim to be our 'climate debt’. The Government has already announced extravagant 2020 emission targets which will impose annual costs on us of 5.5 billion dollars. This is already utterly unaffordable before ‘climate debt’ is added on top.

“Is the rush to pass the bill a hidden agenda enabling Nick Smith to offer these giveaways at Copenhagen? No other explanation has been offered.

Mr Dunleavy said: "It is true that the government has a problem with the Labour/Greens legislation passed in haste last year and due to come into force on 1 January 2010. But the ACT Party has offered a solution in its minority Select Committee report:

"Stop, slow down, and simply change start dates of 1 July sectors to 1 January 2011 (or beyond) and no other changes to existing ETS at this stage (ACT would support National on this, guaranteeing a majority for this change).

"Leave bill in front of select committee for review post-Copenhagen and in the light of Australian and US developments.

"Do proper Regulatory Impact Statement: not clear that international relations and commercial benefits warrant costly action by New Zealand.

"Express preference for a low, revenue-neutral carbon tax as an initial measure for New Zealand, with exemptions for trade-exposed industries and subsidies for sinks. A carbon tax would facilitate statutory adjustments of contracts (for example Todd Energy). There is a growing international consensus that a carbon tax is preferable to an ETS, and a tax is much easier to dismantle than the property rights created under an ETS, should climate change concerns be ultimately unfounded."

"Our Coalition suggests to Mr Key that he emulate his predecessor David Lange when faced with a similar impasse: call time out for a cuppa. It makes no sense for us to rush to judgment with binding legislation in a demonstrably cooling world and before we know what outcome, if any, there will be from Copenhagen," Mr Dunleavy concluded.


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