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Groser: NZ Statement To UN Climate Change Conference High-Level Segment

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tim Groser
Tim Groser

12 December 2008 - Mr President, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

Climate change is among the greatest challenges of our age. Finding a durable solution - a solution that will allow the development process to continue but in a more sustainable way - is a formidably complex problem. The New Zealand Government is determined to play a positive role here.

We thank the Polish authorities for providing the international community an opportunity to take this a step forward at Poznan. We congratulate them for the excellent arrangements and their generous hospitality.

The complexity of a meeting such as this is considerable from purely a logistic point of view and we very much appreciate the organisational efforts that have been made.

We have had a change of Government in New Zealand within the last few weeks. The implications for the New Zealand economy arising from our Kyoto obligations, given New Zealand's emissions profile, which is highly unusual for an Annex 1 country, was an issue.

The political debate was not of course couched in technical terms. Rather, it was expressed in general terms about the balance between our economic interests and environmental responsibilities.

What is clear is to New Zealanders is that their jobs and our prosperity depend on maintaining our export base, 63% of which is based on our primary sector. It is also clear to New Zealanders that neither they nor the world would benefit from a transfer of production from New Zealand to countries that are less efficient in food production and whose carbon footprint in food production, taking account of every step in the supply chain, is worse than New Zealand's.

As a consequence we are reviewing our suite of climate change policies. The objective here is not to step back from Kyoto. The Government fully understands and accepts its long-standing international obligations under Kyoto for the first commitment period.

Indeed, far from retreating from the climate change challenge, this review is a means to find a more politically durable way of moving forward by building a wider policy consensus.

New Zealand is unique among Annex 1 countries. With nearly 50% of our total emissions coming from agriculture, no other developed country comes close to having such a large percentage of its emissions arising from food production.

However, we are certainly not unique if developing countries are brought into the picture. Globally, an average of 27% of all emissions from developing countries come from their agriculture production.

New Zealand is a food basket for the world - we export some 90% of what we produce. From decades of working with developing countries on agriculture issues in the GATT and now WTO, New Zealanders understand how difficult it is to advance any international agenda if it is seen to undermine food security, domestically and internationally.

Let me put this in strategic negotiating terms. The 'New Zealand problem' with the current treatment of LULUCF and agriculture is perhaps a minor irritant only for Annex 1 countries since they are concerned primarily with their industrial emissions. But this treatment may turn out to be an issue of real significance if emission reduction commitments from developing countries - whatever form they might take - are to play a part in a post-2012 agreement. This Ministerial meeting in Poznan is another step in a chain of meetings designed to ensure that there is a successor agreement after 2012 that will establish a set of firm and coordinated commitments to combat the threat of anthropogenic GHGs beyond the first commitment period.

There is certainly no question about the absolute need for a successor agreement. It would be an extraordinary political failure if the international community failed to put one in place, given the gravity of the issue.

Further, this forum is the logical forum to find a coordinated international response to one of the great challenges of our age.

But objectives, even in times of great need, are one thing. Delivering a result is another. The history of international diplomacy is replete with examples of negotiations which have failed to deliver a politically durable result, even when the consequence of diplomatic failure means armed conflict or deepening economic crisis.

A result will not be achieved by soaring rhetoric and setting yet more objectives that are divorced from the capacity of countries, both developed and developing, to achieve. Negotiators will, given the choice, always prefer to focus on objectives where deep ambiguities can be buried politically, rather than focus on modalities to achieve those objectives.

My delegation, both here and at subsequent negotiating meetings, will focus its efforts on designing modalities that might serve as a more durable basis for the second commitment period. To put it in plainer language, we will be focusing on the rules governing commitments before we focus hard on the commitments.

Within that broad policy area, New Zealand will focus on more appropriate rules in the LULUCF area, not just because they are vital to New Zealand but because they will, in our view, be vital for a range of developing countries if developing countries are expected to make any commitments in a successor agreement.

An absolute priority here for New Zealand and all developing countries where livestock agriculture is an important activity is further scientific research on mitigation options. There are very few abatement options for grazing livestock agriculture. Many of those that do exist are amongst the most costly options in world, difficult for New Zealand let alone developing countries.

Food production must continue to expand if we are to feed the world and we must do this while responding to the challenges of climate change. If, in the area of livestock production, 'mitigation' simply means 'cut production' - we do not have a sustainable way forward.

New Zealand has established the Livestock Emissions and Abatement Research Network (LEARN) to work collaboratively with other countries in this effort. The new Government has decided to build on this by creating a virtual world research centre on agriculture mitigation strategies.

Considering that an average of 27% of emissions from developing countries are emissions from agriculture, there is a huge under-investment in global climate research on this matter. We will be looking creatively to build international interest in this area.

This brings me to the vital issues of land use.

The world must act on deforestation.

The case for doing something urgently is compelling.

We should leave Poznań with a strong message to create a framework to incentivise retaining forests. We need time to explore and negotiate such a framework.

And we must be open to all options to provide incentives, whether through the use of carbon markets or other means.

Mr President, Poznań will be a success if it provides the impetus to finally get down to the business of full negotiations next year. That is the kind of message that I hope you will be able to convey to the world at the end of this meeting.

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