OPINION: Climate change, environmental matters, and the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) have been very much in the news lately, and have a great deal of relevance to our region as the One Plan goes to appeal.
The ETS is our pragmatic response to climate change. It is driving investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and tree planting. Our moderated ETS strikes a fine balance between doing our fair share for the global issue of climate change and not impacting unreasonably on New Zealand's businesses and households.
National's bill, which will assist New Zealand in meeting its current and future international climate change obligations, has passed its third and final reading in Parliament.
The Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill makes changes to the current act, ensuring that our ETS costs the domestic economy as little as possible. It also provides the flexibility necessary to accommodate developments between now and 2015, when the Government will review the ETS.
By maintaining long- term incentives for reducing emissions, without loading costs on households and businesses while our economy is recovering, our ETS is helping contribute to a stronger and more productive economy - one of National's priorities this term.
The Government has also decided that from January 1, New Zealand will be aligning its climate-change efforts with countries which are collectively responsible for 85 per cent of global emissions.
This includes the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil, Russia and many other major economies.
In the transition period, 2013 to 2020, developed countries have the option of signing up to a Second Commitment Period (CP2) under the Kyoto Protocol, or taking their pledges under the United Nations Convention Framework.
The Government has decided that New Zealand will take its next commitment under the convention framework.
New Zealand stands 100 per cent behind its Kyoto Protocol commitment. We will remain full members of the protocol and we are on track to achieving our target. We are actually forecasting a projected surplus of 23.1 million tonnes.
There is no question of withdrawing. The decision was about where would we make our next commitment - under the Kyoto Protocol or the convention, with the majority of economies.
We have decided that it is in New Zealand's best interests to sign up to the convention.
We intend to apply the broad Kyoto framework of rules to our next commitment. This will ensure that New Zealand carries forward the structure created under the Kyoto framework into the broader convention framework.
This means that there will be no change to domestic policy settings, which were modelled on the Kyoto Protocol rules.
Australia has made a different decision based on its best interests. Tim Groser, our Minister for Climate Change Issues, has been in frequent contact with the key Australian ministers on this matter.
Australia has a different set of domestic policies in place, until at least 2015, when the fixed-price regime is intended to be replaced by an emissions trading scheme. We will continue to work closely with our Australian colleagues on climate-change matters.
The next decision will be to set a formal target for New Zealand's future emissions track through to 2020, to sit alongside our conditional offer to reduce emissions between minus 10 per cent and minus 20 per cent below 1990 levels.
National believes that economic growth and improving the environment can and must go hand in hand.
Our primary industries are the backbone of the economy here, and are especially important to the people of Rangitikei.
And it's great news for New Zealand farmers that this month Southland-based meat processor Alliance Group secured an exclusive contract to supply chilled New Zealand lamb to major British retailer Marks and Spencer.
The supply arrangement, from Christmas this year, will be the first time Marks and Spencer has agreed to an exclusive deal for chilled lamb from a single New Zealand supplier.
This milestone creates even more opportunities for other sheep farmers.
Last year, New Zealand exported about $530 million worth of sheepmeat to Britain.
Better farming methods in New Zealand mean it is believed to be more efficient for it to be grown here and shipped around the world.
This endorsement heralds New Zealand lamb as some of the best in the world, and supports New Zealand's view that it can produce and ship meat to the other side of the world with a lower carbon footprint than locally produced meat.
One last thing: Some great news this week for Manawatu company Higgins as it won a major contract to service 6500 kilometres of Fijian roads.
It's interesting to note this project will be led by Ray Edwards, who is well known as the man in charge of the Feilding Square redevelopment, which hosted the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall this week.
* Ian McKelvie is MP for Rangitikei and a former Manawatu District mayor.
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