New Zealand's Government will not sign up to the legally binding second Kyoto Protocol commitment period from 2013.
Instead, instead it will 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.
But Green 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 per cent and minus 20 per cent 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."
Greenpeace said the Government's decision meant it was turning its back on Kyoto ''to join an infamous club of the world's dirtiest economies and most belligerent climate wreckers''.
"Tim Grosser is trying dress up a profound decision to abandon the world's longest standing collective agreement to tackle climate change as no big deal," said Greenpeace NZ's Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer.
"In fact, he has just joined New Zealand up to a club of the biggest and dirtiest polluters including Russia, USA and Canada. You have to ask is that really where New Zealand belongs? Is that how we see ourselves and is that how we want the world to see us?''
Labour climate change spokeswoman Moana Mackey said this country's international reputation had taken a massive hit.
"This is a day of shame for New Zealand. .... To pull out of Kyoto the same day that Australia committed is humiliating.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
A referendum on the flag will be held in the next parliamentary term. What do you think?Related story: Flag vote to go ahead