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Govt risks NZ reputation at climate summit

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Durban, SA (4 December 2011) -- The New Zealand Government is jeopardising its good name in international negotiations at this fortnight's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban. It has been identified as one of a small number of States stalling progress in forming an international climate agreement. Other parties have privately condemned its conduct and predict it could risk the possibility of a credible outcome.

"Negotiators and observers have been telling us that New Zealand is taking an exceptionally irresponsible position in the talks", says Rachel Dobric of the New Zealand Youth Delegation.

Despite formally stating on 30 November that the interim Environment Minister would be attending the talks, the Government has since decided that Hon. Nick Smith will not attend the conference.

New Zealand appears to have misled other States about a key issue in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. In response to suggestions that a second commitment period could enter force provisionally, New Zealand negotiators have stated several times this week that they cannot constitutionally agree to this.

"This is inconsistent with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade policy, with its past conduct in other treaties, and with suggestions made earlier this year. We are shocked that New Zealand is claiming something they've done before is unconstitutional."

The Ministry's policy states that treaties may provisionally enter into force if allowed by their terms or agreed by their parties.1

New Zealand has agreed to at least three other treaties provisionally entering force: The 1994 Implementing Agreement on the International Seabed Authority; the FSA 1995 Provisional Fish Stocks Agreement; the FAO Agreeent on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing; the 1996 agreement between the European Community and New Zealand on sanitary measures applicable to trade in live animals and animal

1 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade International Treaty Making Guidance for Government Agencies on Practice and Procedures for Concluding Treaties and Arrangements (August 2011) <http://www.mfat.govt.nz/downloads/treaties-and-international-law/treaty-making-booklet-2011.pdf>.

products; and the 2006 agreement between the European Community and New Zealand on certain aspects of air services.

At intersessional talks earlier this year, New Zealand negotiators even proposed that a provisional second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol would be viable, though they now claim that this is unconstitutional.

States and civil society agree that Durban is the last chance for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, the only international agreement to date that imposes legally binding targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The first commitment period ends 1 January 2012. In the absence of a second commitment period, it is unlikely that there will be a mechanism for ensuring emissions reductions until 2020.

A leading Kyoto Protocol negotiator privately stated this week that other Parties perceive New Zealand's position as "deliberately inconsistent", and "problematic for a thousand reasons". Another stressed that "[New Zealand] is pulling the Kyoto Protocol down to the lowest level of ambition, and the lowest level of cooperation", with delegates agreeing that the Government's position is "totally ridiculous".

Negotiators speaking about New Zealand's delegation have also said that "They take extreme positions on a number of issues, which make it difficult to reach consensus on anything" and that "They're not being very cooperative."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has made it clear that a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol is not high on its agenda, describing it in early November as "a low ambition". Other parties have suggested that, as the New Zealand Government appears to not care about Kyoto, it should withdraw from the negotiations in order to allow committed parties to reach an agreement.

In spite of this, New Zealand's lead Kyoto Protocol negotiator, Stephanie Lee, expressed on 2 December 2011 that she believes a second commitment period could be secured before the end of the Durban conference on Friday 9 December 2011.

NGOs have identified New Zealand as one of a small group of problem states that are obstructing talks. As a result, "vulnerable countries have been decapitated" by having their voices marginalised at the Durban conference.

On Friday, Climate Action Network International awarded New Zealand a silver 'Fossil of the Day'. These awards recognise states that have played the most destructive role in the negotiations each day. New Zealand's Fossil was in response to its proposal of a flexibility mechanism which would allow a single forest to be traded multiple times in bilateral agreements. This mechanism compromises both the accurate accounting of greenhouse gas offsets and New Zealand's intentions to reduce emissions.

-30- The New Zealand Youth Delegation is a group of ten New Zealanders aged 18-26 attending the Durban conference to represent the interests of New Zealand youth. Members of the delegation previously attended the Copenhagen and Cancun conferences.

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