Positive Environment News

New Zealand signs up to Kyoto climate change pact

Date: 11-Dec-02

"Climate change is a global problem and a concerted international effort is required to combat it," Prime Minister Helen Clark said at the signing.

"The Kyoto Protocol is the international community's response to climate change and New Zealand is playing its part."

The Kyoto pact aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the developed world, which account for the overwhelming bulk of the gases, by 2012 to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels.

Clark said New Zealand's policies had been tailored to ensure continued international competitiveness.

"Agriculture, the engine of our economy, has been exempted from charges on its emissions and we will tackle those emissions through research. We look ahead to the post-Kyoto era with confidence."

New Zealand produces between 70 million and 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. About half of its greenhouse gases come from the methane and carbon dioxide emissions of more than 50 million sheep and cattle. Those industries earn about one-third of New Zealand's export earnings.

The government announced plans earlier this year for a carbon tax some time after 2007, which will raise energy prices between six and 19 percent.

However, New Zealand expects to earn as much as NZ$1.4 billion ($703 million) from carbon sink credits generated by its big commercial forests.

New Zealand opposition political parties and some business groups have opposed ratification while major trading partners, including the United States and Australia, remain outside the agreement.

Nearly 100 countries have ratified the controversial protocol, which needs at least 55 states contributing at least 55 percent of the industrialised world's 1990 greenhouse gas emissions to come into force.

The United States, the world's biggest polluter, has declined to ratify the protocol because of fears it will damage its economy, but the agreement is expected to come into force next year when Russia ratifies it.

The protocol's ratification was a campaign promise of New Zealand's minority, centre-left, Labour-led coalition government in the mid-year general election, but it needed the support of the Green Party to ensure passage.

© Thomson Reuters 2002 All rights reserved

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