Kiwi climate change policy 'close'

02:51, May 20 2011
ON TOUR: American climate change scientist Dr James Hansen on a tour of the Solid Energy's new Vale mine at Waimumu, west of Gore yesterday.

New Zealand has come closer than any country to getting climate change policy right with its emissions trading scheme, US climate scientist James Hansen says.

However, he said the country should abandon the scheme and replace it with a carbon tax.

In an interview with The Press during a whirlwind 10-day tour of the country, Hansen said he did not agree with cap and trade schemes, like New Zealand's, with forestry offsets.

"[But] in terms of doing something sensible with that approach New Zealand has probably come closer than anybody," he said.

"In my opinion you have to have the simplest, transparent scheme so I just say it should be a flat fee proportional to the amount of carbon in the fuel.

"And the money, I say, has to go to the public.


"If it's going to go back to fossil fuel industry or utilities or whoever the favourite lobbyist is of the Government, the public will never allow that fee to rise to a level that renewable energies and energy efficiency will really take over to the degree that they have to.

"There's tremendous potential in energy efficiency but it's not going to be realised as long as there's cheap, subsidised fossil fuels."

Described as the world's pre-eminent climate scientist, Hansen was one of the first scientists to raise global warming as an issue in the 1980s.

The American scientist has drawn huge crowds for his public talks, in which he warns of a coming climate catastrophe unless people leave in the ground the world's coal resources, including huge seams of lignite in Southland.

He will speak twice in Christchurch today: at Canterbury University's A1 lecture theatre at noon and at the Canterbury Horticultural Centre in Riccarton Ave at 5.30pm.

The Press