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Global efforts to get a new deal to combat climate change are foundering because they are based on the competitive mindset of trade negotiations rather than collaborative problem-solving, Green Party climate change spokesman Kennedy Graham says.
Speaking at a Victoria University-hosted briefing on the outcomes of the latest round of global climate change talks in Doha, Mr Graham said trade and climate change required "qualitatively different kinds of negotiations".
Trade talks were competitive, sought to maximise national self-interest and were not bound by any deadlines, whereas climate change required global cooperation, was about protecting the planet to remain habitable, and had a finite timeline if "cataclysmic" climate change is to be avoided.
"We are using a trade mentality, not just New Zealand but especially New Zealand, and we are screwing up at a fundamental level."
Also addressing the seminar was Business New Zealand's representative at Doha, John Carnegie, who warned the global business community is steadily losing interest in the United Nations-led talks, which are failing to unlock the new business opportunities that would come with a push to decarbonise global economic activity.
"Expectations [of Doha] were low and those were more than delivered on," he said of his "two weeks in a bubble of unreality".
Local commentators have focused on the fact New Zealand was punished for leaving the Kyoto Protocol by being barred from secondary market trading in carbon beyond 2015.
But Mr Carnegie said this would be seen by history as "no more than a footnote" compared to the loss of the Clean Development Mechanism, which has generated carbon credits for emitter countries when they invest in approved carbon reduction schemes in developing countries.
The result would see CDM-linked carbon credits eventually become worthless.
"It's highly unlikely that business will have any trust at all in the development of any new UN market-based initiatives," he said. "I think we have seen the sun set on the use of UN market mechanisms."
Instead, businesses were increasingly responding to consumer and supply chain pressure to demonstrate environmental integrity.
New Zealand's climate change ambassador at the talks, Jo Tyndall, described how saw China, India and other major developing economies fight to keep a "firewall" between rich and poor countries in a post-Kyoto deal which is supposed to take effect from 2020.
The new deal is intended to bind in far more of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions than were covered in the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of this month.
That means placing carbon constraints on the fast-growing economies of Asia and South America, although Mr Graham said it was neither morally right nor politically possible that there would be no firewall between developed and developing countries in the new deal, which is to be negotiated by 2015.
Former climate change negotiator Adrian Macey told the seminar there was still a gradual move towards a platform for all countries to contribute to a global climate change deal.
He criticised both the business and environmental lobbies, with business disengaged and environmental non-government organisations locked in a mindset of guilt and blame towards wealthy countries.