NZ not ready to meet Accord deadline

NZ Herald

by Brian Fallow

Wednesday 20th January

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand will not be signing a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the post-2012 period under the Copenhagen Accord's deadline of February 1.

How much it amounts to will not be clear until early next month, when the annexes of the document are due to be populated with quantified offers to cut emissions, in the case of developed countries, and to curb the growth in emissions, in the case of the major developing ones.

But Key said yesterday that New Zealand's 2013-2020 emissions reduction target, of 10 to 20 per cent less than 1990 levels, remains conditional.

While some progress was made on securing acceptance of some of new Zealand's conditions at Copenhagen, the comprehensive United Nations negotiating process collapsed, leaving a weak agreement among leading emitter nations, the Copenhagen Accord.

"[Climate Change Minister] Nick Smith and [Climate Change Negotiations Minister] Tim Groser over the next 12 months will work hard to reach an agreement New Zealand can sign up to, subject to the conditions we took to Copenhagen," Key said at his post-Cabinet press conference yesterday.

"Eventually we are going to sign, but not by February 1. It is an ongoing negotiation."

In particular, the Government wants changes to the Kyoto Protocol rules relating to forestry and to ensure there is no restriction on New Zealand's ability to meet its obligations by importing "carbon" - or units representing a reduction in emissions somewhere else in the world.

Some countries seek to limit the ability to use international carbon markets to meet national targets, seeing them as a disincentive to reduce emissions through domestic action.

The rules on deforestation say that when a forest is felled, unless that land is replanted, all the carbon stored in those trees is deemed to be emitted to the atmosphere and has to be counted in the country's emissions.

New Zealand says it ought not to matter whether the same land is replanted, only that a new forest is established somewhere to suck up the same amount of carbon dioxide as it grows.