New Zealand ETS passed

smoke stackJust before 6pm last night, Parliament passed the Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill by 63 votes to 58, with the support of National, the Maori Party and United Future.

With features such as halved power and petrol price increases for households and business during the transition phase, it is a softer version of the bill passed into law last year.  It also provides for regular review, with the first to occur in 2011.

Listen here to the speech given by the minister for climate change, Dr Nick Smith, to introduce the 3rd and final reading of the bill.

The SMC will continue to update this article as commentary from experts arrives.

Associate Professor Ralph Chapman, director of environmental studies at Victoria University, comments:

“The passing of today’s Climate Change Response amendment bill through the House is deeply disappointing. Every week, emerging climate science underlines the need for urgent action to cut emissions drastically, with developed countries especially needing to make cuts right now to avoid a global warming drift above 2 degrees, the guardrail against dangerous change. The Government’s amendment bill does way too little to bring down New Zealand’s emissions. The bill has good aspects (e.g. agriculture is included, eventually) but its overall weakness and lack of clarity about its impact on emissions will undermine New Zealand’s reputation and positioning for Copenhagen”

Dr Jim Salinger, an Auckland-based climate scientist, comments:

“At present we appear to be bogged down in emission reduction schemes and targets. This thinking is short-term as the high emissions industries in the long run are doomed.  We have the low-carbon technology – which include many forms of renewable energy such as solar electric, solar thermal, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal and bio-energy.  All we need to do is scale these technologies up rapidly and harvest the economies of scale.”

Suzie Greenhalgh, Senior economist in the Sustainability & Society team at Landcare Research, comments:

“The passing of the ETS ammendments sends positive signals about New Zealand’s desire to address global climate change, providing greater certainty to business and the population about the path New Zealand will follow.  Given that most of the debate so far has been around the risks New Zealand faces with adopting the ETS, now perhaps the debate can switch to where potential opportunities may lie. The inclusion of agriculture, despite its omission in other national schemes, is also an important step for New Zealand’s management of greenhouse gas emissions and may just provide some of these opportunities.”

Associate Professor Euan Mason, of the School of Forestry at the University of Canterbury, comments:

“It is good that New Zealand has begun to address climate change, and if the energy sector is required to surrender credits earned from genuine CO2 sequestration then the ETS should begin to change our behaviour in helpful ways. In its deal with the Maori party the Government implicitly acknowledged that the ETS legislation markedly devalues pre-1990 forest land and that the few credits offered to owners of such land are inadequate compensation. Offering owners of pre-1990 forests the option of replanting elsewhere after land use conversion as an alternative to paying conversion tax would have gone some way to softening the impact on land values. As it stands only a proportion of these land owners have been adequately compensated, and the remainder,both Maori and Pakeha, no doubt feel a sense of injustice.”