Kennedy Graham's General Debate speech on climate change and the Kyoto protocol | Asia Pacific Greens

Kennedy Graham's General Debate speech on climate change and the Kyoto protocol

14.11.12 - General Debate - Part 5

We have turned our back on our moral and political obligations. We are now guilty of our proportionate share in guaranteeing dangerous climate change.

Under this Government, New Zealand has turned down the wrong road. We have entered weak targets that are unilateral, conditional, and informal, and ignored the pleas from other countries to make a formal commitment.

Rather than attempt theatrics, the Minister should recall the Stern Review, which says that “with 5-6 degrees warming," which is a real possibility for the next century … "existing models that include the risk of abrupt and large-scale climate change estimate an average 5-10% loss in global GDP,”.

We have turned away from the undertaking of the developed countries in the Framework Convention on Climate Change to take the lead with immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and are repudiating a legally binding second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, committing ourselves to voluntary pledges instead.

We have weakened the emissions trading scheme to the point of oblivion, claiming it to be a Rolls-Royce model that can be revved up to suit the circumstances, but leaving it with no credible pathway ahead and piling up fiscal debt for future generations.

We are missing a critical opportunity to move to a high tech, competitive economy that promotes green investment and green jobs. We are guilty of our proportionate share in guaranteeing dangerous climate change.

Dangerous climate change is over 2 degrees temperature rise, yet voluntary pledges to date under the convention commit us to 4.2 degrees. That takes us beyond danger territory into possibly catastrophic climate change.

It invites tipping points to the ecosystem and the biosphere, of which we have stunningly little knowledge. Most telling of all, our two national leaders in climate policy, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Climate Change Issues, are guilty of argumentation that can be seen only, I conclude, as intellectually dishonest.

I acknowledge their personal integrity, so I call upon them to show us that this is not the case. Let me elaborate. The convention of 1992 lays down a division between North and South, between the developed and the developing world.

The North, in light of its largest share of historical and current global emissions, must take the lead with immediate action in reducing emissions, while the South is allowed to grow emissions to meet their development needs.

This distinction still applies until the framework convention of 1992 is supplemented by a global legal agreement with binding obligations to reduce emissions by all countries. That will be in 2020.

For a transition period of 2013-19, the North/South distinction still remains. Yet this Government assures the public that it is "joining up with 85 percent of global emissions" in going the voluntary route with our "Asia-Pacific trading partners".

Well, of course we are, because most of the 85 percent are in the South, with no obligation to reduce as yet. The other 15 percent are the Kyoto group, of whom we should be part, who are taking on binding commitments under the second commitment period.

That includes Australia. The fact that the US, Canada, and Japan are not does not absolve us from our own obligation.

There is, it seems to me, a touch of intellectual dishonesty in the 85 percent argument. There is a risk here, no doubt unintentional, of misleading the public, because it offers a false reassurance that it is at odds with the 1992 legal framework.

We should be ashamed, yet this Government is not. The Minister's highest skill level was displayed in the House yesterday when he justified his climate policy by flourishing a photograph of some Romney sheep.

He needs to understand that our sheep industry, although less emissions-intensive than elsewhere, emits more than it should, and more than it needs to.

Welching on Kyoto and weakening our emissions trading scheme loses the opportunity to incentivise agriculture to be more climate-friendly.

Rather than attempt theatrics, the Minister should recall the Stern Review, which says that "with 5-6 degrees warming," which is a real possibility for the next century … "existing models that include the risk of abrupt and large-scale climate change estimate an average 5-10% loss in global GDP,".

We have to be wilfully blind to allow ourselves to get into this indefensible position; indefensible before the court of international opinion, indefensible in the eyes of the New Zealand public.

http://www.greens.org.nz/speeches/kennedy-grahams-general-debate-speech-climate-change-and-kyoto-protocol

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand