National changes stance on climate change commission

Bill English had previously said his party “did not see a case” for establishing the commission.

Opposition leader Bill English is now open to backing the government’s yet-to-be-formed climate change commission after previously ruling out support before the election.

But it is not clear what has changed Mr English's mind on the need for the commission. 

And the former prime minister says he would need more detail before throwing his party’s full support behind the idea, as National “would not like to sign up flying blind to something that could amount to quite a radical change in our economy and our way of life.”

Last night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw said Zero Carbon Act legislation will be introduced in October next year. In the meantime, the government will be consulting with the public.

An interim climate change commission will be set up by May next year, which will do some of the groundwork in preparation for the official commission, which will make the final decisions.

Before the election, Mr English said National would not be supporting the idea of establishing a climate change commission.

“We don’t see a case for it,” he told media.

“The Paris agreement target is clear and there is regular reporting against that so in our view the accountability is in place.”

But this morning he was singing a different tune.

"We are open to a discussion about a climate change commission – bear in mind it is just a commission from what we can see, we don’t have any detail about what its powers would actually be or its scope.”

When asked why National had changed its stance, Mr English says before the election National held the position that the emissions trading systems is the most important tool for climate change because it's real.

"It’s a price people pay every day and they adapt their behaviour because of the emissions trading system and the price on carbon," he says. "With climate change, they’re making an effort to get broad support so we’re open to the idea but we have to discuss the implications of, for instance, a carbon neutral economy by 2050. No one has any idea what this means for our businesses, our households, for our incomes. So we’re open to the idea – but it has a long, long way to go to discuss the reality of it."

He supports the government’s plan to take a bit more time for public consultation before the Zero Carbon Act goes before the House.

“If you want to get broad buy-in, you need to have broad understanding.

“That’s why the government is taking its time – I think it is aware that, rather than putting it through in the first 100 days, there needs to be broad understanding.”

Mr English said the most important issue is trying to get a broader understanding of what it would mean to reduce New Zealand's carbon use below what is already in the Paris agreement.

"The agreement target was regarded as quite challenging for New Zealand – the government is now talking about something much lower than that.

"That warrants a broader discussion about what it might mean."

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