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Paris agreement could be ratified by NZ this year — Bennett

Climate change minister also dismisses the Morgan Foundation's "Climate Cheats" report. PLUS: Green co-leader says New Zealand heading in opposite direction.

Sun, 24 Apr 2016

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says New Zealand could ratify the Paris agreement on climate change before the end of this year.

Yesterday, 179 countries signed the climate change accord – but lawmakers in each still need to ratify it.

Under the Paris agreement, New Zealand's post-2020 target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. 

As with all Paris agreement terms, New Zealand's target is non-binding.

Mrs Bennett told TV One’s Q+A programme that “ratifying is a really big, important step. US and China have already said they’re going to, and President Xi and President Obama doing that, I think, was quite significant.”

She hopes to make up her mind within a month as to a timeframe for NZ to ratify the agreement and only after she has sought advice from officials.                                                                                        

“I’d like to do it in 2016, because I think it has symbolism with it. And I could, but then I’m not sure that that lowers our emissions or gets us in the actual plan of what we’re going to do,” she said.

Mrs Bennett also dismissed the Morgan Foundation's recently released "Climate Cheats" report, which highlighted that some New Zealand companies bought carbon credits from Russia and Ukraine, whose ETS schemes were revealed as crooked by the Stockholm Report. The minister said the Morgan Foundation report offered "nothing new." The government accepted the findings of the Stockholm Report and pulled the plug on international ETS trading last year. 

Emissions increasing, Shaw says
On the same programme, Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he would welcome early ratification, but noted a number of conditions would have to be met first.

Right, now, New Zealand, which has delayed implementation of the Kyoto Protocol (the predecessor to the Paris Agreement) for most industries, is heading in the wrong direction, he claimed.

"Emissions have actually gone up about 11% since the National government came to office in 2008, and current projections are that our emissions will actually increase another 94% by 2030, which is obviously well above what our ambition is to reduce our emissions."

Asked if moves to reduce emissions targets would stress a rural sector already under severe pressure, Mr Shaw said that was the wrong way of looking at the climate change issue.

"This is a boring, old-fashioned argument," Mr Shaw said.

"The government has only ever looked at the cost side of the equation. They’ve never looked at the benefit side, so they don’t think of it as an investment. And what you’re doing here is you’re moving the economy from a low-value commodities economy to a high-value, high-tech, jobs-intensive economy, right? And so then there is a return on investment in that. That is significant for New Zealand. Not only that, they’re not equating the cost of doing nothing.

"And if you look at the cost that’s already occurring in New Zealand, you know, the 2013 drought that cost us $1.5 billion, the Whanganui and the Dunedin floods last year, the worst storm since the Wahine. You know, my city, Wellington, got $4 million of direct clean-up costs. $36 million worth of insurance costs. Climate change is already having a significant cost to the New Zealand economy. It is affecting jobs. Tourism jobs have gone in Franz Josef because the glacier isn’t there anymore. I mean, you’ve got to look at both sides of the equation, and I think that investing in the smart, green economy will yield substantial benefits to us."

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Paris agreement could be ratified by NZ this year — Bennett