With the Kyoto Protocol due to expire in 2012, what are the biggest obstacles to developing a new treaty?
The number one issue is participation. Countries that have obligations under Kyoto account for less than 30 per cent of global emissions and that number is falling. It does not include developing countries or the United States.
It seems likely the United States will join the next agreement when negotiations begin in Copenhagen in December. Does that leave developing countries as the biggest challenge?
I don’t think you can separate the issue of the United States joining from developing countries joining. Everyone expects developing countries will do less than developed countries, but they must do something or we are wasting our time.
Kyoto is very flawed. By 2050 it would reduce average global temperatures by only 0.07 of one degree. The sucessor must include all major emitters.
Couldn’t other countries argue it is just as difficult for them to reduce emissions as it is for us to cut agriculture emissions, for example countries that rely on electricity from coal?
Agriculture is in a special category. There are solutions to the generation of electricity from coal but there are no ways to reduce enteric methane. There are a series of interesting ideas in a lab, but nothing that is commercially available.
Which is why we should be careful not to start taxing farmers for the emissions, when there is little they can do about them except shoot every tenth cow.
Should agriculture emissions be completely exempt?
No. New Zealanders want to do their fair share. We argue that all countries must look at what practical potential they have to reduce greenhouse gases.
Any other big issues for New Zealand?
Forestry. The rules negotiated at Kyoto assume all carbon from trees is released as soon as you cut the trees down and that is not necessarily true. Kyoto also penalises people who want to cut down forests and plant them in a different place.
New Zealand wants to transfer more of its forestry to marginal hill country and under the current rules that will cost a lot of money.
Yes the rules should allow you to offset forests without penalty. This allows land to be used for the purpose it is most fit for.