Wellington, Nov 26 NZPA - Ministry for the Environment officials say greenhouse gas emissions under the Government's new emissions trading scheme (ETS) will continue rising -- though a little slower than if there were no ETS in place.
Officials from the ministry came under pressure at a heated meeting of Parliament's local government and environment select committee today, with Green Party MP Sue Kedgley questioning how emissions would be different under the new ETS, and when they would show a downturn.
The Environment Ministry claimed in April that the nation's Kyoto liability for 2008-2012 had swung from an estimated deficit of $546 million last year to an estimated surplus of $241 million.
Ms Kedgley asked for specific figures on the projected tonnage of greenhouse gas emissions and whether they would go up or down.
She refused to accept a suggestion from officials that the figures would be released in January, when the "5th National Communication" on the figures would be sent to the United Nations.
This would have projections to 2020, calculated both with and without ETS measures.
"When will our emissions begin to decline?" Ms Kedgley insisted.
But ministry information director Todd Kriebel said he did not feel he was in a position to give specifics because information was still being collected from agriculture and commerce ministries.
"We do have an idea -- the general trend line, without measures, is going up," he said. "And with measures, it's rising, but not as steeply as it would otherwise".
Labour MP David Cunliffe backed up Ms Kedgley's line of questioning, seeking agreement that the ETS bill passed this week weakened the incentives for polluters to reduce emissions.
Mr Kriebel said he did not have those numbers with him. He agreed a comparison would be done between the projected emissions under Labour's ETS and those under the new version.
Mr Cunliffe at one stage told committee chairman Chris Auchinvole that it appeared officials were not willing to give to give a straight answer.
"The hard questions haven't started yet," he said. "If you want to be obstructive now, then gird your loins".
Another Labour MP, Shane Jones, joined the fray, asking how the officials responded to allegations that they were trying to provide an accurate assessment of greenhouse emissions with "threadbare resources".
The bureaucrats noted they were working in a difficult area, but were getting help from other arms of government.
Ms Kedgley made another effort to find out the timing of when emissions were likely to decline, and was told by climate policy director Stuart Calman they did not make predictions but modelled a range of scenarios dependent on number from energy, agriculture, forestry and other sectors
"The long-run projections generally indicate that emissions will continue to rise, in the absence of any policy measures," he said.
With the ETS, the ministry had looked at the overall net emissions, and the economic cost to the Crown -- but the answers depended on how international carbon prices fluctuated.
"The answer is they will continue to increase," he said.
The big variable was that the ministry did not know what to expect from the forestry sector, he said.