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NZ must choose between Europe and 'the rest' on climate change action: Groser

Monday 12th December 2011

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New Zealand faces a big decision on whether to support Europe or the developing countries, along with the US, Canada, Japan and Russia on how to develop new global rules to combat climate change.

Climate Change Ministers Tim Groser and Nick Smith said the new global direction hammered out at the annual global meeting on climate change action, in Durban, had delivered important improvements to rules governing forestry and land use, which will benefit New Zealand.

But there were “still important questions left unanswered.”

“The date for the next Kyoto commitments still need to be finalised; the negotiations for the long-term regime beyond 2020 will be long and arduous,” they said. “The Durban texts themselves, which were deep and complex agreements put together under great pressure, will unquestionably contain problems and issues which cannot be seen clearly at this stage.”

The key elements of the Durban deal extends the Kyoto Protocol by between five and eight years; agreement to a new global pact to include developing economies, and rich countries such as the US and Canada who’ve resisted being part of a global deal in the past.

However, it stopped short of promising a “legally binding” agreement, as sought by the European Union and low-lying island states. Instead, the agreement will seek “a new protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force” that will apply to all parties to the United Nations climate convention. This new agreement would be adopted in 2015, for implementation in 2020, and is crucial for including the big three emitters: the US, China and India.

The Durban agreement also paves the way for the US$100 billion annual “green fund” in which rich countries will provide funds to assist developing nations respond to climate change, to be operational by 2020.

Groser said one of the big decisions for New Zealand and Australia, now that it had an emissions trading scheme, would be whether to “join Europe in inscribing our next set of international commitments within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol or to join all the developing countries, the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and others, in making those commitments under the alternative transitional arrangements described in different texts.”

“It is not a matter of whether we make commitments - New Zealand will - but where they are made and how ambitious we should be,” he said.

“Like all countries, we will need to take account of our national circumstances and compare our efforts to the efforts of others. We want to do our fair share, but it will not be clear for some time what exactly others will be committing to,” the Ministers said.

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