Parliament to go into urgency to pass emissions bill
Parliament faces a marathon debate under urgency this week as the Government rams through its emissions trading scheme bill against fierce opposition from Labour.
Climate Change Minister Nick Smith yesterday struck a deal with the Maori Party giving the Government a narrow majority to pass the bill through its second reading, committee and third reading stages.
Urgency will start today and see Parliament sitting from 9am to midnight until the legislation is enacted, and that will last at least until Thursday and possibly Friday.
Labour is going to put up hundreds of amendments, with the Greens expected to add theirs to the pile.
The deal with the Maori Party makes little difference to the design of the emissions trading scheme (ETS) which National drafted earlier this year, but it does soften the impact on sectors and groups with large Maori representation.
The ETS is a modified version of the one passed by the previous government just before last year's election, which National put on hold.
It gives big polluters an easier ride and significantly reduces fuel and power price rises that would have kicked in under Labour's scheme.
In exchange for its five votes, the Maori Party gained concessions including:
* Another $24 million to be spent on insulating 8000 low income homes;
* A Treaty of Waitangi clause obliging the Government to consult Maori on ETS regulations;
* Iwi who consider the ETS undermines their treaty settlements will get the rights to plant 35,000 hectares of Crown land and claim carbon credits worth an estimated $25 million to $50 million; and
* A review of tree planting incentives.
Labour leader Phil Goff described the deal as "quick and dirty" and said the Government was going to have to explain why concessions had been made which gave preferential treatment to Maori forestry companies.
"Let's be clear -- this deal will not benefit Maori as a whole," he said.
"It is a deal done with a handful of iwi to guarantee Maori Party support for National's shambles of an ETS."
The ETS will eventually bring all sectors of the economy under a regime designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon trading scheme.