Climate Change Ministers Nick Smith and Tim Groser have warmly welcomed the outcome of the UN Climate Change negotiations which concluded successfully in Durban today.
They paid tribute to the leadership provided by the host, South Africa, which paved the way for a truly comprehensive international agreement.
"This agreement meets all the realistic expectations the New Zealand delegation had when it arrived in South Africa two weeks ago," Mr Groser said.
- Maintains the legal structure of the existing Kyoto Protocol while improving rules in the treatment of land use and forestry. These changes have environmental integrity and make more sense for New Zealand moving forward;
- Reinforces commitments made in principle by all major emitters at Cancun last year for the period beyond 2012 to 2020 and thus ensures a far more comprehensive international approach to combating climate change than the very partial coverage a Kyoto deal alone would have secured. At the request of the South African Government, Mr Groser facilitated these negotiations;
- Crucially, foreshadows a single new international agreement beyond 2020 (the "Durban Platform") that will bring all major emitters, developed and developing, within a legally binding framework;
- Unlocked the way forward for the $100 billion Green Climate Fund designed to assist developing countries meet the adaptation and mitigation challenges they face.
Dr Smith noted that New Zealand has a robust suite of climate change policies in place centred around the ETS, described by the OECD in its November 2011 Environmental Outlook as the most developed and most comprehensive trading scheme in the world.
"The Durban outcome is another clear sign that more and more countries are coming on board," he said.
Both Ministers emphasized that there were still important questions left unanswered. The date for the next Kyoto commitments still needed to be finalized; the negotiations for the long term regime beyond 2020 would be long and arduous; the Durban texts themselves, which were deep and complex agreements put together under great pressure, will unquestionably contain problems and issues which cannot be seen clearly at this stage.
"Most important, we, and no doubt Australia, will each need to make a decision in coming months whether to join Europe in inscribing our next set of international commitments within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol or to join all the developing countries, the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia and others, in making those commitments under the alternative transitional arrangements described in different texts. It is not a matter of whether we make commitments - New Zealand will - but where they are made and how ambitious we should be.
"Like all countries, we will need to take account of our national circumstances and compare our efforts to the efforts of others. We want to do our fair share, but it will not be clear for some time what exactly others will be committing to," the Ministers said.
Mr Groser said New Zealand's negotiating team worked hand in glove with its Australian counterparts, led by the Hon Greg Combet, the Australian Minister for Climate Change.
"The cooperation at Durban will be matched by cooperation in domestic policy development. In particular, we will be exploring with Australia how to link in a practical way our two schemes, once the Australian scheme switches to a trading scheme in 2015," Dr Smith said.
"We recognize that these developments, welcome though they are, still leave many important questions unanswered. We need to address the recommendations of the review of the New Zealand ETS chaired by the Hon David Caygill. Internationally, there will still be many concerned at the overall level of ambition being less than required for an adequate global response looking forward to 2050.
"Equally, we can be certain that there will be concerns, particularly in developing countries that do not have well established climate change policies, that the Durban agreements may put too much adjustment pressures on them. While these conflicting concerns are legitimate, we can all move forward with increasing confidence given this outcome," Mr Groser said.
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