Not quitting

The SST headline and lead para:

 New Zealand may quit

New Zealand has been tipped to quit the Kyoto Protocol, designed to cut global emissions.

Nonsense. NZ is, as I understand it, fully committed to its Kyoto obligations.

The issue is that those obligations are for the five year period 2008 – 2012, which ends in 10 weeks time. But to suggest that NZ is quitting, is just inaccurate.

Government officials next month travel to Doha in Qatar for the latest round of negotiations on the treaty, but with less than four weeks before the summit, acting Climate Change Minister Simon Bridges says the Government has “not made a decision” on its commitment.

“My understanding is that decisions have yet to be made on that matter,” he said.

But the actions of participants in the carbon market, and market signs, suggest the Government is preparing to walk away.

There is nothing to walk away from! There is not international agreement on post 2012 targets.

There is growing speculation the Government’s silence is because it could save face internationally by waiting for big players like China and the US to refuse to sign up to the second Kyoto round, before following suit.

Of course, as it would be economic and environmental madness to have an agreement without them (or India).

But not unilaterally agreeing to a future binding commitment, is vastly different to walking away from a current commitment. If reporters can not understand this, then here’s an analogy.

If I lend you $1,000 and you agree to pay me back $200 a year, and then after five years you have paid me back, are you walking away from your commitment if you don’t keep giving me money in the future?

But OM Financial carbon broker Nigel Brunnel thinks New Zealand will sign up to new commitments in Doha, but then delay ratifying them. That could buy time to pursue aligning with a group of Asia-Pacific partners, and adopting voluntary emissions targets outside of Kyoto.

That fits into two of the Government’s climate-change themes, New Zealand doing its share, and not damaging competitiveness by enforcing heavy carbon payments on businesses when trading partners like the US and China do not.

Because of that, about 85 per cent of world carbon emissions are not covered by international reduction agreements, and it is said in government circles that China’s emissions increase daily by New Zealand’s entire annual carbon output.

It is simple. Any agreement which doesn’t include binding targets by China is worthless in an environmental sense.

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