Entering the Kyoto era

  • Pete Hodgson

When the Prime Minister told me I would be responsible for steering the development of climate change policy I had an inkling it would be a bit of work.

It turned out to be the widest and deepest policy project I've ever had to deal with.

How do you respond to a global environmental problem, stretching into the next century and beyond, spanning every sector of the economy and the interests of every consumer in the land?

The officials here tonight know what a journey it has been. To all of you, my heartfelt thanks for your dedication, perseverance and ingenuity. You know, as Helen said, that there is plenty more work to come.

Just as I am confident that ratifying the Protocol is an act of foresight, I am confident that we have developed sound domestic policies on climate change.

I thank those of you outside government who have contributed to that result through consultation and debate. Some of you have the good grace to join us this evening while still having reservations about the Protocol. Perhaps you would agree that whatever those reservations, it is time now to look ahead and prepare for the Kyoto future.

That means preparing for both risks and opportunities.

The government has taken advantage of the flexibility of the Protocol and chosen policies that will help ensure the continuing competitiveness of New Zealand businesses.

Negotiated Greenhouse Agreements will be available to firms exposed to international competition from nations without Kyoto targets.

Incentives for Projects to reduce emissions will be available to all sectors.

And agriculture, still the heart of our economy, will be exempt from emissions charges for at least the first commitment period.

The eligibility criteria for Negotiated Greenhouse Agreements and Projects will be soon be available for consultation.

We are making progress on a research strategy for tackling agricultural emissions.

And we are talking with the forestry sector about how its contribution to the creation of valuable forest sink credits for New Zealand should be recognised as policy develops.

Business, meanwhile, is taking its own steps.

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development is working in partnership with government to identify the business opportunities of the Kyoto era.

Energy companies, forestry companies, enterprising research institutions and others are doing their own investigations of the new markets for climate-friendly products and services.

Companies overseas, including many in Australia and the United States, are providing useful examples of climate change strategy and cooperation.

A key agent of this change, the United States' Pew Center, is considering establishing a presence in the South Pacific.

There will be a great deal of 'learning by doing' in the years and decades to come.

Climate change policy and business best practice will keep evolving, as our knowledge of climate change grows and web of international cooperation expands and re-aligns.

I have no doubt that New Zealanders will continue to respond with their typical combination of ingenuity, practicality and common sense. We are renowned around the world for getting on with the job.

The job is now to make sure this country is a player in the post Kyoto world … to make sure we adopt new technologies from elsewhere quickly … to develop and market our own technologies to worldwide effect.

We have a huge global environmental issue to address and we have a remarkable array of business opportunities to seize. We used to think that those two tasks were opposites. We are beginning to see that they are one and the same.