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March 15, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Newest member of parliament lays down climate change challenge

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Born in 1981, House’s youngest MP probably seems old to you lot

Gareth Hughes, parliament’s newest and youngest MP, laid down a challenge in his maiden speech in February: to “take climate change seriously”.

Hughes accused the current National and previous Labour governments of “[ignoring] warnings of the end of cheap oil … blithely building more motorways … [and putting] corporate and short-term interests before the transformational shift to a sustainable and more prosperous economy”.

In his speech, Hughes noted New Zealand’s recent drop from first to fifteenth place in the Yale and Columbia Universities’ environmental performance index.

Hughes proposed that next year’s Rugby World Cup could provide “urgency for a raft of cost-effective, job-producing green initiatives from transport to housing, from energy to waste” to ensure “the tens of thousands of Cup visitors come away with a view of Aotearoa New Zealand that we’ll be proud of”.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Climate Change, Dr Nick Smith, told Salient “the government balances its environmental responsibilities with a realistic assessment of the economic costs and opportunities”.

“The government’s infrastructure programme is directly supporting thousands of jobs and contributing to a stronger economy, which will mean better wages and higher living standards for New Zealand families.”

The spokesman criticised the previous Labour Government’s climate change policy.

“National was elected as the new government of New Zealand in November 2008. It was the previous Labour Government’s policy to pursue carbon neutrality at a time when our emissions had increased by more than 22 per cent since 1990. That shows that the climate change policy the government inherited from Labour was not credible.

“We have had to give New Zealand’s climate change policy a reality check. We are not claiming New Zealand can be a world leader in emissions cuts or the first carbon-neutral country in the world. Our policy is for New Zealand to do its fair share and this will be challenging given our unique emission profile dominated by agriculture.

“We are about less ambitious talk but more real action.”

National’s policies to address climate change included home insulation, encouraging solar water heating, funding bio-fuel development, exempting electric cars from road user charges and facilitating renewable energy projects.

The spokesman also noted that New Zealand has joined the Copenhagen Accord.

He says that the government’s “main policy tool to reduce emissions is an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)”.

“New Zealand’s revised ETS will be the first outside Europe and will be the most comprehensive. We are the first to include forestry and, in 2015, will be the first to include agriculture. The Rio Tinto aluminium smelter in Bluff will be the first of 168 smelters in the world to face a price of carbon for its industrial emissions.”

However, Labour Party spokesperson for climate change Charles Chauvel told Salient, “John Key and National have set out to roll back and repeal every significant initiative that Labour took in the environmental area.

“National lacks a vision for New Zealand’s future that incorporates sustainability. All they seem focused on is promoting mining or providing additional support and protection to polluters.”

Chauvel says he was saddened by Hughes’ accusations with respect to Labour’s response to climate change.

“As far as Labour’s record in government goes, it’s sad to see the Greens—who say they stand for truth in politics—misrepresenting the facts. Labour worked hard to map out the way toward a sustainable future for New Zealand. It does Gareth no credit to pretend that our record remotely compares with National’s.

“It’s like comparing clean water to mining slurry.”

Chauvel says “Labour introduced and passed a world-leading and effective emissions trading scheme before the last election. Labour’s scheme applied to all sectors, and would have credited 90 per cent of emissions based on the 2005 averages for each sector, and then phased that out by 8 per cent each year, down to zero. To emit above those levels, polluters would have had to buy permits, and the revenues from those sales would have funded big energy efficiency and conservation projects.

“Under Labour, the Emissions Trading Scheme will be recalibrated to send a meaningful price signal in favour of renewables.

“Transport emissions will reduce drastically through a mix of encouraging the use of biofuels, moving heavy freight back onto rail and coastal shipping, reinvesting in user-friendly public transport, and adopting electric vehicle technology as early as economically possible.”

Chauvel was supportive of Hughes Rugby World Cup proposal.

“It is vital to the success of the Rugby World Cup that it is environmentally sustainable as possible.

“But why stop at rugby? Every major event held in New Zealand should showcase our environmental aspirations, and should encourage us to live up to those aspirations.”

A spokesperson for Rahui Katene, the Maori Party spokesperson for climate change, says Mrs Katene was unable to respond. At the time of writing, Katene was “on the Chatham Islands without cellphone or email coverage … holding constituent consultation hui on the Foreshore and Seabed legislation, and constituent clinics”.

ACT Party spokesperson for climate change Rodney Hide did not respond to Salient’s request for comment.

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Comments (4)

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  1. McHarris says:

    Why cannot politicians see that a SCAM has been perpetrated? There is more and more scientific evidence coming forward every day. Putting your head in the sand and denying any wrong has been done will not make it go away.

    http://just-me-in-t.blogspot.com/2010/03/much-ado-about.html

  2. smackdown says:

    a SCAM with big uppercase letters for conveying EMPHASIS over the INTERNET

  3. Alpha says:

    Honestly? A One World Government conspiracy theorist? Who writes in Occasional capital letters for some Reason?

    Wow.

    The thing I never understood, McHarris, is what would be so bad about a world government? At least the shit to do would get done.

  4. david beart says:

    I think National should give nature a “kick in the pants” and cut it’s benefit if it refuses to work

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