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Region meets on climate change

New Zealand has one of the highest greenhouse gas emissions rates in the world per head of population, a Climate Change Forum heard in Hamilton yesterday.

About 40 participants attended two briefings, one for local government and related services in the morning and business sector representatives in the afternoon. They heard from Enviro Solutions facilitator Karen Bell, Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister’s Department Murray Ward and New Zealand Climate Change Project Team representatives Elisabeth Numan-Parsons and Scott Gulliver.

Elisabeth Numan-Parsons said while carbon emissions from New Zealand amounted to only 0.3 percent of world emissions, there was still significant room for improvement. New Zealand is the fourth highest per capita producer of greenhouse gas in the world, beaten only by the United States, Canada and Australia.

The Government initiated policy development out of its commitment to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and the consultative process and preferred policy document were designed with flexible mechanisms so that “business and usual” could be maintained within the transition period of 2002 to 2008.

The mechanisms include a range of options including emissions trading, credits raised through helping other countries and sinks produced from forestry resources planted after 1990.

Murray Ward said New Zealand had to step into the arena now or it would have little chance of influencing the world wide focus.

“The little guys have to be in the tent from the start, in order to effectively manage the potential risk effects. That’s the only way to retain global credibility.”

The policy is now in its second consultation round, which is due to be completed next month. Feedback will be collated and made available to debate the Bill and confirmation of the preferred policy will be completed by early August.

Amongst the concerns of the participants was how the mechanisms will be put in place and what will give them teeth, concerns about the detail of the application, how to involve the transport sector in consultation, and why the team had selected a tax on supply rather than a tax on emitters.

There was concern for companies operating under a tight export environment which had already made significant “impact reduction” measures and would still be hit by the increases placed on the supply end through energy and transport costs.

Participants were also concerned about who would own and manage carbon sinks and how carbon charges would be handled within companies with multiple and diverse business units.

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