Key dumped from BBC climate change debate

23:56, Dec 16 2009
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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been embarrassingly dumped from a climate change debate by the BBC.

In a move that may stoke trans-Tasman rivalries, Key has been elbowed out of the BBC World "Greatest Debate on Earth" on Thursday by his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd.

The debate in Copenhagen's New Concert Hall will include Mexican President Felipe Calderon and South Africa's Jacob Zuma, before an audience of 1000 people.

The BBC World News service, the British state broadcaster's 24-hour international TV news channel, attracts 74 million viewers a week and is broadcast in more than 200 countries.

A spokesman for Key said the Prime Minister's office was told on Wednesday on arriving in London.

"The decision's disappointing - the BBC had confirmed the Prime Minister would be taking part. Today they decided to change that."

It was the BBC that initially offered the spot to New Zealand.

The spokesman said Key's office was told why the BBC made the decision but preferred it came from the British state broadcaster.

Trade Minister Tim Groser said it was an unfortunate development, but little could be done about it.

"It's a bit disappointing, but that's the way the world works," he told Radio New Zealand this morning.

The dumping will be an embarrassment for Key, after Climate Change Minister Nick Smith, earlier this week, said the Prime Minister's inclusion was a "huge honour".

"Basically, what you're looking for is a non-European developed country that's seen to be constructive," Smith said.

Greenpeace political advisor Geoff Keey said the dumping was a "bit of a knock back".

He thought Rudd's role as a special negotiator in Copenhagen may have led to the Australian leader being preferred for the debate.

"Maybe we're (New Zealand) simply not seen as a player."

Key arrives in Denmark on Thursday and will attend a royal banquet later that night.

The debate will be aired at 2010 GMT on Thursday (9.10am Friday New Zealand time).


The Press