The Government has opted not to sign up to the second Kyoto Protocol commitment period from 2013 and will instead take its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the parallel "United Nation Convention Framework".
Protocol targets are legally binding, and the convention ones are not.
But Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said New Zealand stood 100 per cent behind its existing commitment.
"We are on track to achieving our target – indeed we are forecasting a projected surplus of 23.1 million tonnes," he said.
"Furthermore, we will remain full members of the Kyoto Protocol. There is no question of withdrawing. The issue was always different: where would we take our next commitment – under the Kyoto Protocol or under the Convention with the large majority of economies? We have decided that it is New Zealand’s best interests to do the latter."
That would mean from next year New Zealand would be aligning its climate change efforts with developed and developing countries responsible for 85 per cent of global emissions.
"This includes the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil, Russia and many other major economies," Groser said.
Green Party climate change spokesman Kennedy Graham said the announcement meant the Government was withdrawing from global efforts under the Kyoto Protocol to fight climate change and was instead aligning with countries who will just talk about it.
"That means committing to producing hot air at talks but not agreeing to legally binding measures to reduce emissions."
Australia announced today a conditional decision to join the 35 other countries that have said they will sign up to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
The first commitment period stops at the end of the year.
"Not content yesterday to pass a law to gut New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme the National Government is now out to undermine any international credibility the nation ever had on climate change," Graham said.
"Tim Groser talks about aligning with ‘major economies’ omitting that many other countries, and the European Union, are in the pro-Kyoto camp and want to take real action to combat climate change."
Groser said New Zealand would apply the broad Kyoto Framework of rules to its next commitment.
"This will ensure that at least New Zealand has started a process of carrying forward the structure created under the Kyoto Framework into the broader Convention Framework. This had been a point of principle of some importance to many developing countries. It would also mean that there would be no changes in domestic policy settings which had been modelled on the Kyoto Protocol rules."
Groser said the Government would continue to work closely with Australia on climate change matters.
"The next decision will be to set a formal target for NZ’s future emissions track through to 2020 to sit alongside our conditional offer to reduce emissions between minus 10% and minus 20% below 1990 levels," Groser said.
"Cabinet has agreed in principle to set that target once we know exactly what the final rules will be on some crucial technical issues, including access to international carbon markets."
- The Dominion Post
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