Select Committee divided, no report possible on ETS Bill
The finance and expenditure committee has failed to agree on whether the amended climate change bill should be passed after its members argued widely divergent views.
The committee will return the amended climate change bill back to Parliament unchanged. Its views were so conflicting that it could not agree on the content of its report, out today. Instead, it has drafted views from each party.
Climate Change Minister Nick Smith said it was disappointing, but not surprising that the committee was split, with "pure oppositional" stances.
“I acknowledge the timetable for passing this Bill is demanding but more than $400 million per year will be imposed on consumers and businesses from 1 January 2010 – including a 10% rise in power prices – if this Bill is not passed by Christmas. The existing law also has many errors in it that need correcting for our ETS to work."
National wants the bill to go through unchanged and is hopeful of progress at Copenhagen.
Labour said the bill was fundamentally flawed and would make New Zealanders poorer, the economy weaker and would not curb the growth of greenhouse emissions.
It had outstanding complaints to the Ombusdman about Treasury analysis of the long-term fiscal costs of the amendments, which were not released under the Official Information Act.
At the eleventh hour, Treasury officials said the fiscal effect of a higher level of free emission rights for large emitters would increase government debt by 13% to 17% of GDP by 2050 ($110 billion), rather than the 6% to 8% previously advised.
On Friday, a Treasury spokesman told NBR the initial advice in Cabinet papers, provided by the Ministry for the Environment and peer reviewed by Treasury, were based on an assumption of a $25 per tonne carbon price through to 2050.
The latest assumptions are based on a $25 per tonne carbon price to 2012 and $30 after that to 2050.
Treasury was responding to a Carbon News article that said Treasury had told the government it made a mistake in calculating the cost of changes to the scheme.
Former Labour government adviser on climate change, Dr Christina Hood, wrote in a submission that the true cost of changes would be as high as $105 billion by 2050.
The Treasury spokesman said Dr Hood had assumed prices of carbon starting at $25 a tonne and moving to $30, $50 and $100 to 2050.
Today, Mr Smith said figures beyond the first decade were highly speculative and dependant on assumptions about future international agreements, the carbon price and the growth of industry.
"It is true that Labour’s scheme would make billions of dollars post-2018 as a consequence of the very aggressive phase-out of industry support and that the more modest abatement rate in the Bill that is in line with our trading partners means the taxpayer profits less," he said.
“The changes do not mean the Government is subsidising important industries such as agriculture but rather the Government is receiving $2 billion less per year in profit from the ETS from the period beyond 2030."
The Green Party said it regretted having to write a substantial minority report, because key issues in the legislation were not fully discussed by the committee.
The Maori Party said a New Zealand ETS was an incomplete response to climate change.
Its four objectives, about whanau, whenua, the Treaty of Waitangi and the Maori economy would not be met under the scheme, but it is continuing to negotiate with the government.
Act said scientific evidence about dangerous, human-induced warming was still uncertain and New Zealand did not need to lead on policy action, especially considering the US will not have legislation at Copenhagen, Australia's was in doubt and it would hinge on a US-China agreement anyway.
The Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill was introduced on September 24 and passed to the committee for a report due today.
The Committee received 379 written submissions and heard from 128.
The bill proposes to change the way New Zealand Units (NZU) would be allocated to emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries on an intensity basis by allowing a transition phase till December 2012 and phased out after that.
The agricultural sector’s entry to the scheme would be delayed until January 2015 and would be set at the processor level rather than farm level.
The fishing sector would receive free allocations (to quota owners) until December 2012 (at a rate of 90% of 2005 emissions).
It also proposes a new regulating group to set domestic emissions reduction targets (to specify the target of 50% of 1990 emissions levels by 2050).