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NZ Govt 'exceptionally irresponsible' at UN Climate talks

Tuesday 20 Dec 2011 1:36p.m.

NZ Govt 'exceptionally irresponsible' at UN Climate talks

By Darren Zhang

Ex-diplomat MP Dr Kennedy Graham is raising concerns over the Government’s handling of the recent UN climate talks that have left other negotiators critical of New Zealand’s “exceptionally irresponsible” stance.

At the Durban COP17 conference, New Zealand was recipient to multiple “Fossils” awarded by the Climate Action Network (CAN) International alliance of NGOs that include Oxfam, Save the Children and the World Wildlife Fund.

It recognises countries whose policies would cause the most damage to the planet.

“New Zealand took the infamous 1st prize for its strongest statement yet against continuing Kyoto,” CAN said in a statement.

“This time, it made it clear, Kyoto is ‘actually an insult to New Zealand’. The only insult is to the citizens of New Zealand and the rest of the world who will have to suffer the costs of climate change.”

Dr Graham is worried the Government has been taking advantage of the stalemate situation to weaken what he believes is an already inadequate policy for New Zealand’s trade gain.

“New Zealand is failing its test of responsible global citizenship by wilfully opposing the more positive initiatives in Durban that might avert the worst of climate change, and would at least assist our Pacific Island neighbours adapt,” says Dr Graham.

New Zealand negotiators had initially insisted that the provisional implementation of a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol due to expire on December 31 next year was constitutionally not possible.

Provisional application is a provisional technique that can be used to create legal obligations from an agreed treaty pending its formal “entry into force” by applying the treaty as if it were in force.

However, the ‘International Treaty Making’ document published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in August 2011 contradicts this.

It states that provisional entry into force “may be allowed by the terms of the treaty” if “a number of parties decide to apply the treaty as if it entered into force”.

According to several sources, a key Kyoto Protocal negotiator claimed that other UN Framework Convention parties saw New Zealand’s position as "deliberately inconsistent" and "problematic for a thousand reasons".

Whilst Greenpeace has accused the Government of siding with China, the United States and India instead of joining European and Pacific nations in calling for a stringent, legally binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions.

“They’re the ones who have actually watered down and resisted any real progress,” spokeswoman Bunny McDiarmid told ONE News.

Rachel Dobric from the New Zealand Youth Delegation (NZYD) to the COP17 is disturbed that the Government jeopardised New Zealand’s reputation at the international negotiations.

She mentions how the country was identified as one of the few states stalling progress in forming an international climate agreement.

“Negotiators and observers have been telling us that New Zealand is taking an exceptionally irresponsible position in the talks,” she says.

According to a NZ Government press release, Climate Change Minister Nick Smith had been bound to join Groser in Durban for the Ministerial segment of the conference.

His eventual non-appearance was a contributing factor to New Zealand receiving the notorious Fossil Award.

When asked to clarify New Zealand’s stance to the NZYD, the Minister Responsible for International Climate Change Negotiations Tim Groser refused to comment.

“I didn’t come here to negotiate with 10 young New Zealanders.”

World Wildlife Fund climate change campaigner Peter Hardstaff told TV ONE’s Breakfast he will be writing to Tim Groser for an explanation.

“That’s not fair and if that’s right, it’s not making New Zealand look good in these talks.”

The WWF has already expressed dismay at the National Party’s climate change policies.

In National’s policy document, the party aimed to introduce “a more balanced approach to climate change” ensuring New Zealand does its “fair share” and amending “Labour’s ETS to strike a better balance between New Zealand’s environmental and economic interests”.

“The National Party's intention to further weaken the ETS and do little else on climate change is based on the bogus concept of 'balancing the economy with the environment'.

“A healthy environment, both in New Zealand and globally, is essential for a functioning economy and our overall wellbeing. The idea that we must exploit and harm the environment so that we can have enough money to afford the clean-up costs is wrong-headed. And with global climate change, the price will be too high."

Climate Change Ministers' Nick Smith and Tim Groser on the other hand have warmly welcomed the outcome of the UN Climate Change negotiations.

“This agreement meets all the realistic expectations the New Zealand delegation had when it arrived in South Africa two weeks ago,” says Mr Groser.

The Minister will now be deciding whether to join Europe in making the new commitments under the Kyoto framework or joining “all the developing countries, the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia and others” in committing under alternative arrangements described in different texts.

In the meantime, Dr Graham suggests New Zealand should side with countries pushing for strong global rules as he believes they will be of the greatest benefit to Kiwis.

“New Zealand should be an independent and principled voice for global carbon reduction.”

 
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