New Zealand: ENVIROLINK: Special Edition - Climate Change

Last Updated: 24 October 2001
Article by Karen Price


As discussed in the July 2001 edition of Envirolink, the New Zealand Government intends to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by September 2002. Under the Protocol, New Zealand will have a binding emissions target to return emissions to 1990 levels in the 2008-2012 period (or to take responsibility for any excess above 1990 levels by buying emission units (rights to emit greenhouse gases) on the international market from anyone with a surplus to sell). The Protocol will only enter into force if 55 countries (including developed countries which were responsible for 55% of developed-country carbon dioxide emissions in 1990) ratify the Protocol.

In order for New Zealand to ratify the Protocol, it is necessary for the Government to introduce specific legislation and to put in place mechanisms to meet New Zealand’s obligations. To this end, a consultation process has this week been launched to elicit information and suggestions regarding ratification, the proposed legislation, and policy options to meet commitments under the Protocol.

Early next year, the Government intends to introduce a Climate Protection Bill. The Bill will be divided into two parts:

  • Part I – minimum requirements for ratification, establishing a national system to monitor and report on emissions and a national inventory of emissions, and granting the Government power to buy/issue emission units (including forest sinks – refer Envirolink July 2001) on the open market; and

  • Part II – policies New Zealand intends to use to meet its obligations. This Part of the Bill will be introduced after Part I and following ratification.

The consultation process will similarly be divided into two parts:

  • Phase onemid-October 2001 to mid-December 2001, seeking input on Part I of the Bill, implications of ratification (social, cultural and economic), and possible policies for inclusion in Part II of the Bill; and

  • Phase two – beginning March 2002, developing preferred policy options for Part II of the Bill and finalising a National Interest Analysis which will be presented to Parliament together with the Protocol for consideration prior to ratification.

Policy options for consideration under Part II of the Bill will be considered under overarching criteria, namely economic efficiency, equity, feasibility, environmental integrity, and competitiveness. Consideration will also be given to who will assume the responsibility for managing emissions, how that responsibility might be divided and whether market-based policies should be introduced prior to the 2008-2012 commitment period. Further, a number of market-based policy options to encourage a reduction in emissions are open for consideration and comment, including emission charges, emissions trading, levies and rebates, project-based initiatives and negotiated greenhouse agreements.

Each of the above options is discussed in further detail in the Consultation Paper, as are the potential social, cultural and economic implications of ratification. Further consideration is given to the benefits of utilising renewable energy sources, and the various policy options are analysed against the sectors to which they may apply (for example the energy, agriculture, industrial processes, waste and land use and forestry sectors).

Feedback on the Consultation Paper, and the various options and policies which it discusses, can be provided to the Government over the next two months. There will also be a series of public meetings held around the country. In particular, a free Climate Change Forum, hosted by Hon. Pete Hodgson and including perspectives from different sectors is to be held in Wellington on 25 October 2001. Please advise us urgently if you would like further information regarding this Forum, or would like register your interest in attending.


The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) last week released an action plan for reducing discharges of dioxins to air. The action plan is intended for consultation, and is aimed toward the setting of a National Environmental Standard (NES) that will:

  • set dioxin discharge limits on waste incinerators; and
  • ban landfill fires and the burning of household wastes.

Hon Marian Hobbs, Minister for the Environment, has stated that the aim of the action plan is to keep pace with our international partners under the Stockholm Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Convention.

This represents the first NES regulation to be proposed under the RMA. Implementation and enforcement costs of an NES would fall mainly with regional councils. We note that the MfE dioxin plan website states that the NES will not apply retrospectively to existing resource consents, unless regional councils review those consents.

As noted above, the action plan is intended for consultation. Under section 44 of the RMA, the Minister must establish a process that gives the public adequate time and opportunity to comment before the Minister can recommend the making of a NES. The Minister is therefore inviting public comment, either by general submissions or comment on specific sections of the action plan. Submissions can be made online, or by other means. The closing date for submissions is 31 January 2002.

Following receipt of submissions, MfE will revise the NES proposal and prepare a report to the Minister. That report will be publicly notified and will:

  • summarise the public comments made on the action plan and NES proposal, and
  • make a recommendation to Government on the NES regulation.




In the previous Envirolink Special Edition regarding the Royal Commission’s Report on Genetic Modification, we noted that the Government intended to consider the recommendations contained in the Report and respond by 31 October 2001.

Following meetings of various interested parties this week, including the Green Party and Maori MP’s, the Government will now announce its decision by 30 October 2001. It is expected that the present moratorium on GE field trials will be extended for two more years, during which time the Government will continue the various investigations recommended by the Royal Commission.

Watch this space for further developments in the GE area.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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