The weird stance of Charles Chauvel

December 18th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

As the Copenhagen summit looks like ending with no agreement, around the only substantial achievement (to date) was the launch of the Global Research Alliance on agriculture greenhouse gases.

This is hugely important both for NZ and internationally.

The importance for NZ is it could help find a way to reduce methane emissions from livestock, which would save the country billions in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

The importance for the world is to avoid what happened with biofuels – that food producing land is converted into other uses, leading to global food shortages.

So it is one of those rare initiatives that almost everyone from business lobby groups to the most hardened Greenie supports. And kudos to Tim Groser and others for getting 20 countries to all pledge funding to it – from Australia to Vietnam to the US. Much better than NZ funding all the research,

Back in NZ, it won support from the Wgtn Chamber of Commerce (no fan of an ETS):

“The reality is that rather than the current proliferation of poorly designed cap and trade systems, science and technology are the real keys to solving the greenhouse gas emissions challenge, and this initiative plays to New Zealand’s research strengths,” said Chamber CEO Charles Finny. …

“This is a good example of trans-national cooperation with a number of countries pooling their expertise to solve a global problem. New Zealand going it alone would be less likely to produce results and it runs against the grain of what this global issue is all about.

“It is increasingly likely that this will be one of the few concrete initiatives to come from Copenhagen and so John Key and Tim Groser deserve full congratulations for the leadership they have shown in delivering this outcome,” Mr Finny concluded.

So business likes it. And what about the Greens. Well this is Kennedy Graham:

Minister Tim Groser advised that, on Day 1, some US$150 m. had been pledged, and it was hoped that this would leverage private funding as well.  But he stressed that it was not just a question of finance – the essence was coordination, of research already underway and new research yet to be funded.  France, for example, already has some 500 researchers in agriculture and climate change who would form part of the Alliance.  India’s contribution would be immense as well.  Once the political momentum was underway, it was important to turn it over to the scientists.

Denmark gave the most impressive example of the potential of the Alliance. Since 1990 it had increased agricultural production by 16% yet agricultural emissions had dropped by 23%.   This had been achieved through optimisation of the nutrient chain and improving water management. …

We should take a positive view of this initiative.

And Jeanette Fitzsimons said:

The Green Party today welcomed the announcement that New Zealand will lead a Global Research Alliance for reducing climate change emissions from agriculture, adding that it is crucial to pursue science and ideas that enhance our clean green reputation.

“I am delighted that New Zealand is finally doing something serious about fighting climate change and reducing agricultural emissions,” said Green Party Climate Change and Agriculture spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons. …

So New Zealand has achieved around the only positive announcement from Copenhagen, with an initiative that pleases both ETS sceptical businesses and the Greens. So who does that leave?

Labour’s Charles Chauvel. In a bizarre press release (one which Clark would have called treasonous if she was still PM) he has attacked the Global Alliance claiming NZ should have gone it alone:

“The multinational nature of the Global Agriculture Fund will inevitably mean that New Zealand won’t own the results of any research paid for by it.

“So, as well as there being substantially less money for investment in the reduction of emissions from agriculture, New Zealand will be poorer because we lose the opportunity to sell or share emissions reduction technology in our singular area of expertise on our own terms.

“Despite the self-generated fanfare and bright lights, National’s approach represents a failure. It totally lacks ambition and is a huge missed opportunity for New Zealand,” Charles Chauvel said.

Yes Chauvel thinks NZ could have solved the problem all by itself. He also misrepresents intellectual property laws (being pat of a multilateral alliance does not mean individual institutions abandon intellectual property rights over their inventions). It is a shockingly stupid stance.

In Opposition, there are times when mindless opposition just for the sake of a press release is a bad idea. As the Greens show, there are times you can say this is a good initiative – even if we don;t like the other things you are doing.

I wonder what Phil Goff, a respected former foreign and trade minister, thinks of his MPs claim NZ should not have helped set up the global research alliance, and gone it alone? I can’t imagine he possibly agrees.

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