Bill halting ETS sparks heated debate

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 08:39 26/10/2012

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A bill stopping the expansion of the emissions trading scheme sparked impassioned debate, including claims from Labour MP David Cunliffe that his two "wonderful young sons" face "extinction" from climate change.

The Climate Change Response Bill narrowly passed its second reading yesterday, despite claims from Cunliffe the bill would "sell out the future of your children and my children".

"Small point. Extinction for us. And it just happens to be in the lifetime of my two little boys or their children," Cunliffe said.

The bill amends the timeline for the introduction of the ETS in some sectors, mostly notably agriculture, and maintains a "two-for-one" deal with carbon emitters, which means they pay for only half the cost of their emissions.

Agriculture, which accounts for about half of New Zealand's carbon emissions, had been scheduled to become subject to the ETS next year. The bill pushes that back until at least 2015.

The two-for-one deal was originally set up as a temporary measure to curb the initial impact of the scheme on petrol and power prices. An independent ETS review panel last year recommended that be phased out by 2015.

In a speech to Parliament on the bill yesterday, Labour's economic development spokesman David Cunliffe pointed to the Government benches and said they "should be ashamed".

There was debate about whether there would be anywhere between one degree and six degrees of warming in the next century.

"That may make the difference between the continuation of the human species or not," he said.

"We have the bizarre and frankly disgusting picture of a Government so craven to its traditional agricultural and big business backers that it's selling out the future of my children and your children ... because they are confused about science that puts a 95 per cent-plus confidence on this change."

The changes would weaken the ETS, he said.

There would be no minimum floor on the carbon price, agricultural sector emissions were left out and there was a "two-for-one" subsidy on carbon debits.

"Those changes gut the ETS. They are going to result in clear felling of more timber, they are going to result in under-investment in clean technology, they are going to result in New Zealanders paying more in our lifetime and our children's lifetime to adjust to the climate change that is certain - not probable - but certain to come."

People overseas would "die in their millions" from mass famine as a result of climate change.

"Here, we will just put up with tornadoes, thunder storms, droughts, floods and reduced agricultural production. ... People are going to die around the rest of the world and we are going to face refugee flows into New Zealand as a result."

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The bill passed with the crucial support of UnitedFuture MP Peter Dunne who pointed to agreements in his support deal with National in backing the bill.

"In that agreement, we undertook with National to slow the phasing-in of the emissions trading scheme and to allow offsetting for pre-1990 forest owners," Dunne said.

There were concerns about the low carbon price but provisions in legislation which were reinforced in the latest bill meant that there were regulatory powers that would enable the Minister for Climate Change Issues to place quantitative and qualitative restrictions on international carbon credit units.

"This means that appropriate safeguards are in place for New Zealand," Dunne said.

Acting Climate Change Minister Simon Bridges told Parliament the bill included major amendments that responded to last year's review and changes in the international setting.

"There is still much uncertainty in international negotiations over how progress towards reducing global emissions will play out," Bridges said.

The Government's main objectives with the amendments were to make sure the ETS supported economic growth; ensure the ETS remained flexible enough to deal with changes to international outcomes between 2014 and 2020 and to improve the administration of the scheme, he said.

- The Dominion Post

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