Ministers dodge questions on ETS pressure

NBR by Andrea Deuchrass

29 March 2010

Both Prime Minister John Key and Environment Minister Nick Smith are dodging questions in the face of growing pressure to place the Emissions Trading Scheme on hold.

The National Business Review understands nine leading business associations sent a joint letter to Mr Key earlier this month asking whether New Zealand climate change policy remained appropriate.

As NBR understands, concerns included:

  • The lack of an Australian scheme (after the ETS was designed to align with it)
  • Global inaction
  • That New Zealand’s ETS was too stringent in its all-sector approach
  • The lack of a liquid international carbon market
  • The little prospect of progress at the Mexico COP at the end of the year
  • Trade disadvantages once businesses enter the ETS in July

The letter was also sent to Bill English, Gerry Brownlee, Nick Smith, David Carter, Tim Groser and Rodney Hide.

Early on Friday morning when NBR submitted questions to Mr Key's office after running a story in print revealing New Zealand business community’s concerns, a spin-doctor told NBR it would be difficult to get a response before Monday.

Nick Smith’s spin doctor also dodged dealing with questions, saying Mr Smith was busy next week with the cabinet and cucus – too busy to even answer a few quick questions this Tuesday after speaking about the Emissions Trading Scheme at a conference.

Businesses want ministers to:

  • Use discretion to help (exempt) trade-exposed businesses
  • Establish the equivalent of the Australian Climate Change Action Fund to assist businesses that don’t qualify for subsidies in the act
  • A review before the end of the year, to make allocation rules better suited to New Zealand business conditions
  • Phase out assistance to match trade competitors
  • To suspend the ETS pending action in Australia
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