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New Zealand sets new emissions target

Aug. 10, 2009 at 3:06 PM   |   Comments

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- The New Zealand government announced Monday it aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to between 10 percent and 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

"This target is internationally credible and both environmentally and economically responsible," said Climate Change Minister Nick Smith. "It is an ambitious but achievable goal."

Noting that New Zealand's gross emissions were already 24 percent above 1990 levels, Smith said the target was going to be a "big ask" for his country.

Nearly half of New Zealand's emissions come from agriculture, which Smith said is unique among developed countries.

Emission reductions would be achieved through the storage of carbon in forests and the purchase of carbon credits from other countries that have not overreached their emissions targets.

"This target carefully balances our environmental responsibilities with a realistic assessment of the economic costs. Achieving these emissions reductions will mean higher costs for consumers and businesses for petrol and electricity," Smith said.

Environmental activist group Greenpeace has called for a 40 percent cut in emissions, which is the "absolute minimum required" to avert "runaway catastrophic climate change," said the organization's spokesman, Simon Box.

New Zealand's Labor Party said the government's proposed target was not adequate to deal with the problems of global warming and would not be viewed seriously by trading partners.

"We'll lose a lot of jobs if wealthy middle-class consumers in Europe and North America decide we're not serious about climate change," Labor MP Charles Chauvel said, New Zealand's TV3 News reported. "They'll start boycotting our goods on the supermarket shelves or stop coming here as tourists."

According to a Ministry for Economic Development report last month, New Zealand's total energy emissions in 2008 were almost 4 percent higher than in 2007, mostly because of a large increase in emissions from electricity generation. Coal-based emissions also rose 37 percent in 2008, as coal-burning power stations had to compensate for a drop of hydroelectricity generation due to New Zealand's drought.

New Zealand is scheduled to present the target announced today at the U.N. climate talks, which opened in Bonn today. The Bonn meetings are the third of six negotiation sessions planned in advance of December's U.N.-backed summit in Copenhagen to draw up a new international treaty on fighting climate change. The current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

The New Zealand government said that its final decision on the target announced today is to be determined at the Copenhagen meetings, Business Green reported. It will formally adopt the 10 percent target if developed countries agree to a comprehensive treaty; 20 percent if developing nations also support the treaty.

China and other developing countries are opposed to compulsory emissions cuts, contending that the responsibility for solving the problem rests with the developed countries that have been longtime polluters.

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