Climate change speech hollow, says Labour MPNew Zealand
A speech made at a Sydney conference today by Climate Change Minister Nick Smith has been criticised by Labour as lacking any substantial plan to deal with environmental, economic and energy issues.
Speaking at the Australia-New Zealand Climate Change conference, Dr Smith outlined policy changes which National made to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) after the party came into power in 2008, including softening the financial impact on small and medium sized emissions-intensive businesses that are exposed to trade.
Deferring agriculture's entry into the scheme by two years was another significant change, he said, although farmers have generally taken a stance against any sort of scheme which affects them.
By 2015 farmers will have to pay for methane and nitrous oxide emissions and a Global Agricultural Research Alliance (Gara) has been set up to find ways of reducing agriculture emissions while maintaining production levels.
Dr Smith said the Government had to date received 760 applications for unit allocations, in the form of compensation for emissions penalties, and those emitting businesses would this week receive notice of their provisional allowances.
The forestry sector, which stores carbon, will get an estimated 75 million units credited to it in the period to 2012.
Dr Smith said there were signs the ETS was already encouraging businesses to take action against climate change, and it was also having a positive impact on forestry plantings, which will help New Zealand meet its international emissions reductions commitments.
He also touched on the nation-wide home insulation scheme, a Green Party initiative which provides targeted grants and aims to retrofit over 180,000 homes with insulation and heating, and talked about encouraging people into electric cars and grants to support domestic biodiesel producers.
Labour environment spokesman Charles Chauvel said apart from suggesting farmers plant trees on their farms, Dr Smith had said little about the challenges faced by the polluting agriculture industry.
Mr Chauvel said in reality the Gara was not likely to lead to the sharing of any intellectual property that might be created to minimise animal emissions.
Meanwhile, schemes such as boosting home insulation, subsidies for solar heating and energy conservation campaigns were simply "rehashed" ones originally introduced under Labour, and no progress at all had been made in promoting electric cars and biofuels.
"It showed that National has no plan for the economic, energy and environmental challenges that lie ahead," Mr Chauvel said of the speech.
Dr Smith admitted there was no unity on the ETS and noted there were arguments saying the Government was either doing too much or not enough, but considered a good balance had been struck.
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