Key pushes to end fossil fuel subsidies

12:08 pm on 1 December 2015

New Zealand faces unique challenges in dealing with greenhouse gas emissions because half of its greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, Prime Minister John Key has told the United Nations climate change conference in Paris.

John Key at COP21

John Key at COP21 Photo: AFP

Leaders from 147 nations are addressing the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21).

Speaking on the opening day of the conference, the prime minister said the other challenge New Zealand faced was that cost-effective technologies for reducing the agricultural emissions were not yet available.

However, he said New Zealand was investing another $20 million in the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, on top of the $45 million it had already invested.

Mr Key said the work of the Alliance had the potential to reduce global emissions, particularly in developing countries that had similar emission profiles to New Zealand.

The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases was formed in 2009 and has 46 member countries.

It is focused on the research and development of technologies and practices that will help deliver ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Key said while New Zealand's emissions were small on a global scale, it was determined to make a strong contribution to the international effort.

"That's why we have set ourselves a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels, by 2030. A significant increase on our current target of 5 percent below 1990 emission levels by 2020."

He also told the conference it must produce a meaningful agreement and is pushing to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies.

New Zealand is one of 40 nations including Britain and the United States arguing that the subsidies have to be phased out, but Australia is against the idea.

Mr Key said research showed phasing out the subsidies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 10 percent.

But Labour's climate change spokesperson Megan Woods said the push has had a mixed response at the climate change summit in Paris.

Ms Woods, who is at the summit, told Morning Report other countries and some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were critical of the communique that has been released.

"An NGO, the Climate Action Network, has just awarded John Key the 'fossil of the day', not because of the goals that were put out in the communique, but because of the domestic action on the ground in New Zealand. They say the actions in New Zealand don't match up with the rhetoric in the communique."

The Green Party said the Prime Minister's stance on climate change in Paris did not mirror his policies.

Climate change spokesperson Julie Anne Genter sayssaid Mr Key's level of rhetoric was surprising, because under his watch pollution had increased in this country, and there were no new policies likely to reduce it over the next few decades.

More than just an environmental issue

Meanwhile, Pacific Island nations have told the UN conference in Paris they were bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change.

For those nations, it was not just an environmental issue, but a human one which affected everybody, the conference have been told.

Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak spoke to the conference immediately after John Key.

"I address you not only as a president, but as a father, as a grandfather, and as a representative of a nation that lies just a few metres above sea level. Everything I know, and everyone I love is in the hands of all of us gathered here today."

Another Pacific Islander among the 40,000 people at the Paris summit, Touraine Elaine Marsters from the Cook Islands, said she was advising some people to move inland, away from the coastal areas.

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