National under fire for plan to review climate scheme

Last updated 02:31 17/11/2008

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Environmental groups are horrified at a "radical" turn in the National government's climate-change policy just a week after the election.

Under a confidence-and-supply agreement with ACT, the emissions trading scheme (ETS) will be put on hold during a review and a thermal-power generation ban will be lifted.

The Auckland-based national group Environmental Defence Society yesterday expressed disappointment at the agreement, saying it would take the new government on an unexpectedly radical course.

Society chairman Gary Taylor said the "cave-in" shook his confidence in Prime Minister-elect John Key's new coalition.

"I was expecting centrist, progressive, Blue-Green environment settings from this new government and instead we've got this great lurch to the Right," he said.

"ACT has some very extreme views, not only on the ETS but on the Resource Management Act, which is up for review, I see."

New Zealand seemed unable to find a popular political response to climate change, after coalition deals sunk a planned carbon tax and, at least, delayed an emissions trading scheme.

Greenpeace warned that National and ACT could risk a trade backlash by lowering New Zealand's environmental standards and procrastinating over climate change.

"Encouraging fossil-fuel power stations, further delaying the ETS and gutting the Resource Management Act are all great incentives for the world's middle-class to shop elsewhere," Greenpeace senior climate campaigner Simon Boxer said.

Environment and Conservation Organisations spokeswoman Cath Wallace said the agreement was a backward step that could threaten the environment.

"We can't continue stealing from the future by polluting the only planet we have," she said.

Under ACT's support agreement, a "special select committee" will review the current ETS and any proposed amendments "in light of the current economic circumstances".

Draft terms of reference for the review attached to the agreement include hearing "competing views on the scientific aspects of climate change" and looking at the merits of a "mitigation or adaptation approach".

Key yesterday said he believed human-induced climate change was real and it was still possible National would pass an amended ETS into law before next October.

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