By Pattrick Smellie
New Zealand’s biggest choice in the emerging global deal to combat climate change is whether to side with Europe and Australia, which have emissions trading schemes, or with the rest of the world in whatever binding deal emerges, says Climate Change Minister Tim Groser.
In his first speech in the domestic climate change role since the resignation of the previous Minister, Nick Smith, on March 20, Groser told the Iwi Leaders Forum that Australia’s decision would be crucial to New Zealand’s choice.
It remained unclear “whether it will be just Europe or Europe plus New Zealand and Australia” that uses the framework of the existing global deal on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, in the second period of international carbon emission reduction commitments, which will run from Jan. 1, 2013.
The Kyoto Protocol so-called “First Commitment” period runs out at the end of this year, with no new international order agreed, but a decision to spend from 2013 to 2020 on a transition to a “single and probably legally binding Agreement that will end the Kyoto distinction between developed and developing countries,” Groser said.
The speech lays out more clearly than previously Groser’s view that New Zealand did well at the Durban negotiations last year, in no small part thanks to New Zealand’s deep involvement in key parts of the detail of the negotiations.
As well as instigating a 30 country research coalition on reducing agricultural greenhouse gases, New Zealand is coordinating a working group on what Groser described as “the missing part” of the current agreements to price carbon – action on subsidies that support hydrocarbon extraction and exploration.
Groser himself is chairing what he calls “endgame negotiations” - the international negotiations that will lead to “the entire developing world and many of the largest developed country emitters led by the United States will make their commitments beyond 2012.”
With Kiwi diplomat Adrian Macey chairing last December’s Durban talks, Groser claims New Zealand “ended up with 100 percent of the responsibility for the mitigation equation,” the core of the climate change debate.
As a long-serving diplomat and ambassador before entering Parliament, the International Trade and Climate Change Negotiations Minister said this achievement was “quite extraordinary in terms of my experience of international negotiations and New Zealand’s contribution.”
“So the next time you read some loose and flamboyant comment about ‘New Zealand’s international reputation’ on climate change because the government will not endorse some extreme response on our ETS domestic legislation, I suggest you reflect on that,” said Groser. “We will not take a political step back on this point.”
He warned that he would not curtail his heavy schedule of international travel on both the trade and international climate change portfolios, and was looking to the newly appointed Associate Minister Simon Bridges to do much of the heavy lifting on domestic climate change policy.
“I have become deeply involved in bits of the international climate change puzzle that are, frankly, rather important.”
He warned also that the government’s over-riding responsibility was to manage the New Zealand economy soundly, and extravagant or overly costly solutions would not fly.
“That limits political soft choices,” Groser said. “This will influence the government’s final choices” following the current consultation. “Do not be surprised.”