New Zealand to set new emissions target

22:32, Dec 07 2011

New Zealand is prepared to adopt another legally binding agreement to lower greenhouse gas emissions when the Kyoto Protocol expires, Climate Change Negotiations Minister Tim Groser says.

However, he warned that just rolling over the protocol, the world's only enforceable climate treaty, was not enough to save the world from dangerous, human-caused warming.

The protocol's future is one of the key topics at this year's United Nations climate conference in South Africa, being attended by representatives of nearly 200 countries, including New Zealand.

Groser, speaking to The Press from Durban, said the most that could be expected from the conference, which ends tomorrow, was a "big step" towards a full and final agreement on lowering global emissions. He said emissions-reduction targets had to be adopted by developing countries and the United States, which had not ratified Kyoto, for an agreement to be effective.

"That trumps all other considerations," he said. "We just can't do another Kyoto."

About 30 developed countries, including New Zealand, have ratified the treaty, which imposes financial penalties on countries that do not meet greenhouse gas emission targets.

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Some billed the Durban talks as the last chance for the Kyoto Protocol.

Government documents released to The Press under the Official Information Act revealed that, eight months ago, the South African hosts wrote off the chances of extending the Kyoto agreement at the talks.

Minutes from a meeting of New Zealand and South Africa climate negotiators, held in Thailand in April, showed South Africa's climate-change ambassador, Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, said there had to be "realistic expectations" in the lead-up to Durban.

"We need to accept that we will have a gap between commitment periods."

Non-government organisations attending the conference last week awarded a "fossil award" to New Zealand for promoting a transition period between commitment periods.

Japan, Canada and Russia have said they would not participate in a second commitment period for the Kyoto

New Zealand's emissions have risen, but it will still meet its target because of huge plantation forestry planting in the 1990s. However, those forests are expected be harvested in the 2020s, which led some to accuse the Government of climate sleight of hand.

The Press