OPINION: When you are striving to see what is over the horizon, you can easily look past something lying right under your nose. The Government's snubbing of a second treaty period for the Kyoto Protocol, after international efforts at Doha to extend its life, smacks of such selective vision.
Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser and the New Zealand contingent decided to walk away from the international talks in the Middle East this month. The Kyoto treaty to reduce rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions had been scheduled to expire at the end of this year, but has now been extended to 2020, despite the withdrawal of New Zealand, Russia, Japan and Canada.
New Zealand's negotiators and the Government attempted to justify such a cavalier stance by explaining it would be better to focus efforts on developing a more comprehensive international pact. Groser pointed out holes in the Kyoto Protocol, saying 86 per cent, and soon 90 per cent, of total global emissions, would never have been covered by the agreement.
There have also been efforts by the Government to sweeten the move by claiming it aligns us with our largest trading partners. However, as critics have pointed out, this is not the case. Australia, our largest partner, has signed up again to Kyoto. China, our second largest, has condemned New Zealand's stance, which is hardly an example of being aligned.
Groser and his team have let this country down. There is no reason why New Zealand could not have signed up to an extended Kyoto agreement while taking a lead in progressing a broader future concordat. As a result of the negotiators' intransigence at Doha, New Zealand has been labelled an international climate change pariah. It was also presented with the Fossil of the Year Award, a highly dubious honour for the nation regarded as the biggest stumbling block to progress at the climate change summit.
Turning our backs on Kyoto provides yet another example of this Government's apparent indifference to the environment, except when it can pour dollars into the Treasury's coffers. New Zealand's reputation as a forward-thinking, green-minded paradise takes another hit, and the percentage value in our 100% Pure slumps further.
Pacific Island nations, whose very futures are the most threatened by any climate change-related sea-level rise, are also flabbergasted that New Zealand has not provided the regional guidance, inspiration and leadership they have come to expect from us.
Kyoto's original intention was for industrialised countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an average of at least 5.2 per cent below their 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The extension to 2020 keeps the protocol alive as the world's only legally binding emissions plan.
As the Green Party was quick to point out, New Zealand was ranked 41 out of 61 on the annual climate change performance index, released at the Doha meeting.
While our Government may believe New Zealand is performing well when it comes to climate change, the index has a different story to tell, ranking this country as very poor in both emissions levels and climate policy. The latest manoeuvring by Groser and his team in the Middle East have done New Zealanders and our international reputation a further disservice.
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