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Govt Vows To Pass Climate Change Bill Despite Committee Deadlock

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Nick Smith
Nick Smith

NZPA political reporters

Wellington, Nov 16 NZPA - The Government says it is committed to passing crucial climate change legislation despite a deadlocked select committee report and opposition complaints that taxpayers will carry a $100 billion burden.

Environment Minister Nick Smith's bill to change the emissions trading scheme (ETS) passed by the previous government was reported back by the finance and expenditure select committee today -- with no recommendations because members couldn't agree on what to do with it.

The report on the bill revealed Treasury told the committee on Thursday the cost to taxpayers if New Zealand can't meet its international obligations could rise to about $100b by 2050 -- twice as much as the Government originally estimated.

Labour leader Phil Goff accused it of a $50b blunder and the Greens also complained about the huge discrepancy.

But Dr Smith said the figures were "highly speculative" and depended on assumptions about future international agreements, the price of carbon and the growth of industry.

"The Government is revising the ETS to reduce the costs to households and the impact on jobs while ensuring New Zealand takes a responsible approach to the global problem of greenhouse gas pollution and climate change," he said.

Dr Smith later accused Labour of deliberately misrepresenting the Treasury's estimates.

"This isn't a matter of a cost imposed on the taxpayer," he said on Radio New Zealand.

"It's rather that Labour's existing law has the Government making over $120 billion. So it's not so much that there's any cost to the taxpayer, it's rather that there are lesser gains."

Dr Smith said a key part of the changes was that the ETS would be reviewed every five years.

"That's what makes this analysis so ridiculous."

The ETS will eventually bring all sectors of the economy under a regime which limits greenhouse gas emissions under a carbon trading scheme.

Dr Smith has had a hard time getting it to the stage it is in Parliament, and has depended on the votes of the Maori Party.

None of the others support it, and the Maori Party is still negotiating for a Treaty of Waitangi clause to be put into it.

The ACT Party doesn't want an ETS at all and the Greens consider it is hopelessly inadequate to meet climate change challenges.

Labour says the ETS it passed just before the election is being watered down so that it gives big polluters an easy ride at taxpayers' expense.

The committee's failure to reach agreement on the bill means the Government will have a fight on its hands as it puts the legislation through its final stages in Parliament.

Dr Smith said the deadlock wasn't surprising and blamed Opposition parties for holding "entrenched positions".

He wanted the bill passed into law before an international climate change conference in Copenhagen next month, so New Zealand can present a workable ETS.

The changes also need to be enacted before January 1 next year because on that date the previous government's ETS starts to take effect.

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