Farmer plea at climate talks

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Prime Minister John Key has confirmed New Zealand will seek special treatment for its farmers at climate change talks this month, bringing claims from the Greens that the stance could damage agriculture exports.

Mr Key said negotiators in Poznan, Poland, would argue aggressively for any targets on greenhouse gas emissions for New Zealand to take account of the significant contribution farming played in the economy.

The industry accounts for half of New Zealand's carbon emissions. But Greens co-leader Russel Norman said the stance would undermine international efforts to reduce emissions and could threaten farm exports as other countries focused on high-emitting industries.

He said a briefing to incoming Agriculture Minister David Carter underlined the danger of arguing for special treatment as the Government undertook a review of the emissions trading scheme passed by Labour.

The briefing says New Zealand needs "sufficiently credible" domestic policies as well as involvement in international climate-change negotiations to avoid potential trade backlashes.

"If they want credibility in any of these negotiations, they've got to be seen to be taking action domestically," Dr Norman said. "Undermining the ETS undermines that credibility. If we're asking for anything around agriculture, then we need to be seen to be doing stuff domestically.

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"The problem is that everyone's got a reason for special treatment, and if everyone gets special treatment, then we don't reduce emissions."

Mr Key rejected the claims and said it was possible to balance playing a full part in international efforts to handle climate change with protecting vital industries.

"You can expect us to play our part in the world, but you can also expect us to negotiate aggressively for our corner, and I think that's the right thing to do.

"There's got to be a recognition that some countries will find it easier to move than others. If the only outcome was for New Zealand to be reducing its agriculture output only to see that output flow to another country ... where their carbon intensity might be greater, we might achieve the worst of all outcomes - a higher level of emissions, a lower level of output, greater pressure on food prices. This is a balancing equation."

He said he wanted a replacement for the present emissions trading scheme passed by September next year. National was still aiming to reduce carbon emissions to 50 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

The Poznan talks are the second stage in efforts to agree new targets to replace the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012. The first round of talks last year in Bali resulted in provisional reductions for developed countries of 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

 

The Dominion Post