Weeks of ETS negotiations loom, says Key

Article – Businesswire

Aug 31 (BusinessWire) – Weeks of negotiations loom between the National Party, its coalition partners and Opposition political parties before a clear position emerges on an amended Emissions Trading Scheme, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Weeks of ETS negotiations loom, says Key

By Pattrick Smellie

Aug 31 (BusinessWire) – Weeks of negotiations loom between the National Party, its coalition partners and Opposition political parties before a clear position emerges on an amended Emissions Trading Scheme, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Speaking at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference, Key would not commit to passage of new legislation before the December global climate change summit in Copenhagen and dodged questions on whether Maori Party negotiators were seeking special treatment for assets such as Treaty settlement forests whose value would be affected by an ETS.

The Government has previously made much of the need to have legislation in place before Copenhagen, although it may judge that having a new ETS Bill before the House will suffice to maintain international credibility.

Key’s comments came an hour after release of the delayed select committee review of the ETS, which was to have been tabled last Thursday in Parliament before the Maori Party attempted to stop publication of its minority report. In the end, the Maori Party’s two page minority view was released along with minority reports from Labour, the Greens, and Act, all of whom have differing views on key issues.

In a statement, the Maori Party said it wanted a tougher ETS than that proposed and conceded it had “at one point offered to withdraw our minority report in an effort to maintain open dialgoue with National on issues of concern to the Maori Party”.

The statement made no mention of negotiation issues. Key would not be drawn on his view of arguments put by some Maori interests that changes in the value of Treaty settlement assets, especially forests, should be adjusted to reflect the impact on them of the ETS.

For pre-1990 forests, the ETS imposes restrictions on how quickly they can be turned to non-forestry uses such as farming, and some Maori interests have argued further compensation should flow.

The review committee’s joint report discussed these issues and the possibility that Maori should be incentivised to grow indigenous rather than exotic forests on marginal land that was unlikely to be developed for farming. Because indigenous forests grow slowly, they should be more generously incentivised, the report implies.

The report also says “it is important that the Treaty of Waitangi provisions and obligations of the Crown towards Maori are not compromised by the introduction of an emissions trading scheme”.

National is now seeking a parliamentary majority for its amended scheme and is willing to deal with any of these parties to get it, Key indicated, but would not discuss specific negotiation points.

“I am reasonably confident we will be able to achieve a successful outcome,” he said.

What National cannot afford is being left either with no new scheme, or with the Labour-legislated scheme which is already on the books. Labour’s scheme is technically already running and has included the plantation forestry sector since 2008. It is due to include the stationary energy sector – electricity plant and industrial processes – from January 1 next year, although all parties and the industry expect that to be delayed because it cannot be implemented in time now.

(BusinessWire)

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