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Oxfam welcomes emissions trading scheme, but urges swifter implementation action

Oxfam New Zealand welcomes the Emissions Trading Scheme announced by the government today as a crucial tool to tackle climate change. However, the proposals do not go far enough or fast enough to meet the urgent challenges posed by climate change. A new United Nations report released this week estimates that up to 600 million people in the developing world face hunger as a result of climate change.

“There is widespread public support for stronger measures to reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is essential to maintain our image as a clean, green country and our position as a good global citizen. However, the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme does not go far enough in order to meet the public mandate for change,” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.

“Carbon neutrality is a helpful long term aspiration, but the real test for this scheme is in ensuring that, as a starting point, New Zealand meets its Kyoto obligations.

“The scheme should live up to three key principles – the level of permits should be linked to emissions reductions that meet our international obligations, all sectors and greenhouse gases should be treated equitably and included from the outset, and protections for low income and vulnerable people must be built in to prevent social inequity caused by any price increases.”

The government acknowledges that all sectors and all greenhouse gases will be included in the trading scheme, but in the scheme’s design provides delayed implementation periods for certain sectors. Most notably, agricultural emissions are exempt from the Emissions Trading Scheme until 2013.

“We question the fairness of delaying agriculture’s entry into the scheme by five years, especially at a time of relatively high dairy prices,” said Coates. “This means the government is in effect subsidising a key export sector and taxpayers will have to pay this cost in our Kyoto Protocol commitment bill.”

The scheme has been announced in the same week as the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II issued its full report into climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. The report shows how failure to swiftly tackle climate change will lead to floods, droughts and more natural disasters that will destroy poor people’s lives in developing countries, as well as devastate their already precarious livelihoods.

“Every New Zealander will be affected by climate change in their lifetime, but the IPCC report disturbingly outlines the deeply negative impacts of climate change on developing countries including our Pacific neighbours,” said Coates. “As a developed country, New Zealand has a serious responsibility to take strong measures to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The Emissions Trading Scheme is a step in the right direction, but its implementation is likely to be too slow and gradual to contribute to the kind of measures necessary to bring about significant emissions reductions.”

Oxfam New Zealand is a non-profit development organisation with programme activities concentrated in the Pacific and East Asia. In May 2007, Oxfam NZ issued its first in-depth statement on climate change in a submission on the government’s climate change policy consultations. 

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