NZ government no commitment to Kyoto Protocol | Pacific Beat

NZ government no commitment to Kyoto Protocol

NZ government no commitment to Kyoto Protocol

Updated 30 November 2012, 12:33 AEDT

In the lead-up to the latest round of United Nations climate negotiations in Doha, small island Pacific states have criticised New Zealand's decision not to commit to a new version of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Alliance of Small Island States has voiced disappointment at the New Zealand move.

But New Zealand's Climate Change Minister Tim Groser has called the Kyoto deal toxic and explained why to Bruce Hill

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: New Zealand's Climate Change Minister Tim Groser


GROSER: Well first of all I want to say that New Zealand will absolutely stick with its commitment under the existing Kyoto Protocol to reduce our emissions in line with what we decided right at the start, so there's no question about that. The question facing our government was where do we want to be in the next period? Now Kyoto was a good start but the fundamental point is this; 85 per cent of global emissions are outside the Kyoto Protocol, and roughly speaking every year from now on that figure's going to grow. So the idea that Kyoto is the answer to climate change I'm sorry doesn't pass the laugh test. What we're going to do is apply the Kyoto rules in what is this new legal space, the future of climate change will stand or fall by our ability to have a comprehensive negotiation that deals with the bulk of the problem, not some diminishing part of the problem. And I am quite surprised actually at the extent to which people concerned about climate change simply don't look at the data, and understand that this relentless emphasis on the Kyoto Protocol for the future, the past is one thing, is actually deflecting political attention on the real problem, which is the non-Kyoto emissions. So all of our political attention is going to be focussed on the big picture outside. Apart from that, I mean there's a heck of a lot more in terms of our relationships with the Pacific on these issues than just a highly sophisticated negotiating position, and I suppose not many people would even want to understand, many of them don't understand, let's be very clear about this, we're putting in a massive effort to support Pacific countries on renewable energy and also to increase their access to electricity. So for example we've just recently completed projects with Tonga for a solar power plant, we've now put in place a solar mini-grade system on Tokelau that will supply 90 per cent of their electricity needs, as opposed to the current situation where 100 per cent of Tokelau's needs were being met by diesel. We've also got energy progress in renewable areas in other areas, in PNG, Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Samoa, and we're working with other donors, including Australia, the World Bank and the ADB in Japan. So actually in a practical sense, putting aside all this high level strategic thinking, New Zealand's doing heaps in the Pacific to help them on climate change.
HILL: What about the whole international situation? If as you're suggesting Kyoto was essentially window dressing, what is the way to tackle climate change internationally? You've got countries like India and China and they're not going to stop their emissions are they?
GROSER: The way to tackle climate change is to get an agreement that deals with the major part of the problem, not with the diminishing small part of the problem. I have no problem with the fact that Australia and the Europeans have decided that for them it fits their purposes to do it under Kyoto Protocol. But I'm saying that politically we've got to focus on the real problem, the real problem is outside. We don't get China and the United States on board, those two countries alone are responsible for nearly 70 per cent of the global emissions. We haven't got a deal that's going to deal with climate change. So I think the problem with Kyoto is that that was a good start but we've now got to look beyond Kyoto. I don't think I'd ever describe Kyoto as window dressing, I think it's just not dealing with the central problem.
HILL: Well how are you going to explain this to the Pacific Island states?
GROSER: As we always do, in the Pacific way. So we'll talk to them in practical terms and hopefully with their representatives who are from the area rather than professional negotiators who are from New Zealand or Australia and are Greenpeace activists.
HILL: Clearly some of the Pacific countries are a bit disappointed by this. The Association of Small Island States says that they don't like this. They would say that they are in the frontline of climate change and they say that they're going to be the first victims of sea level rise, so for them it's a bit more important than perhaps they think it is for countries like New Zealand?
GROSER: And they're absolutely right to be concerned about it, which is where we have this problem of pure logic. They're right to be concerned about the implications for their countries of climate change, so why on earth are they not supporting efforts that deal with 85 per cent of the problem, rather than this complete fixation on Kyoto, which covers 15 per cent, getting smaller? I mean this is the problem, the political rhetoric has been set in place 20 years ago that has got this ridged dividing line between Kyoto countries and non-Kyoto countries, and it's no longer the main game. It's time for people to reappraise their position.
HILL: Ok so if 85 per cent of the problem is outside Kyoto, what's the way of tackling that?
GROSER: To work for this comprehensive agreement that we agreed in principle at Durban last year at the comparable ministerial climate change meeting in Durban, to work towards a single comprehensive agreement, and that would be negotiated by 2015 and come into effect by 2020. That's where the attention should be.
HILL: Do you think the Pacific will be receptive to your message?
GROSER: Well I think if we're dealing with people who are thinking straight and are actually living and working on these islands, there's every chance. But if we're dealing with professional negotiators who are employed on the basis of their activist credentials, we will continue to have a dialogue of the deaf.


Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill


Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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