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ETS Talks Still Ongoing Despite Tensions And Rumours Of Collapse

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Goff
Phil Goff

By Ian Llewellyn of NZPA

Wellington, Aug 16 NZPA - Both Labour and National say they are continuing talks over an emissions trading scheme despite rumours that they have reached a deadlock over crucial details.

Both parties have been keen to reach a consensus on the ETS but the Government is running out of time to present it to the next major climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.

NZPA has been told that a meeting scheduled between the two parties did not go ahead last night as scheduled.

This was because the Government wanted time to think about a recent letter from Labour leader Phil Goff over concerns about details of the ETS.

There are rumours that the talks had stalled or completely collapsed but both National and Labour said this was not true.

Labour's climate change spokesman, Charles Chauvel, also gave an indication that talks were in trouble when he issued a press release saying Labour could not agree to any ETS without a proper economic analysis.

Asked by NZPA if talks had collapsed, Mr Chauvel said he believed they were still ongoing.

They had been productive and there was "a remarkable level of consensus on the design features" of an ETS.

Mr Chauvel said he was reluctant to go into details of the differences.

"We have agreed not to conduct the talks in public, but I think the fact the forestry industry has been expressing concerns recently about some of the features ... would give you an indication of what the outstanding issues between National and Labour are."

Foresters are concerned about a potential price cap on carbon and the allocation and trading rules for the ETS.

Both Mr Chauvel and Climate Change Minister Nick Smith said they were still keen to find a cross party consensus and Mr Chauvel said the formal signals from the Government were that the talks would continue.

A select committee inquiry into the current ETS introduced by Labour was meant to be the vehicle for change, but it has become stalled.

If National can not reach an agreement with Labour they have to look elsewhere for support to make amendments, but ACT has always opposed an ETS and the Maori Party has a support base with strong links to forestry.

ACT would support repealing the current legislation, but is unlikely to help National with an amended version.

Another alternative is to let the Labour ETS stand.

Mr Chauvel said Labour would be delighted if its legislation stood, "but we initiated these discussions with the Government because we recognise that they had won the election and we wanted a way to determine what the common ground was".

The tension over the issue behind closed doors emerged into the public arena today over the economic impact of an ETS.

Mr Chauvel said the financial policy analysis on an ETS released yesterday showed a "shocking" lack of quality.

They had been silent on the potential of forestry to meet targets and indicated the Government was looking to subsidise polluters.

"It would be irresponsible for Labour to enter into a bi-party deal without decent, credible, independent financial analysis. We could not sign up to a polluters' charter," Mr Chauvel said.

ACT Leader Rodney Hide also asked a question in Parliament for the first time since becoming a minister, attacking the economic cost of an ETS.

Mr Hide said he done this because he wanted to highlight the serious damage an ETS could do to the economy.

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