Top tier partner calls for delay in review

by Hannah Norton12 Aug 2015
The Government should wait until after a major international climate change conference before reviewing the New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme, a partner at a top tier firm says.

Last month Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser confirmed the long-awaited review would commence this year, news which was largely overshadowed by the simultaneous announcement of a new climate change target to reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Leading climate change lawyer and Bell Gully partner Simon Watt is recommending that the substantive part of the review be held until after the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, scheduled for the end of the year.

The Paris-based conference aims to set post-2020 emissions targets internationally and has been described as the most important climate change event since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

“Our view would be that scheduling the bulk of the review for after the Paris conference would make sense.

“Any review that is looking to harden ETS settings will be affected by New Zealand’s position relative to key trading partners,” he said.

The review could be considered more significant for business in New Zealand than the target because the long-term timing of the target meant there was always the possibility of further changes in the future, while the ETS determined the actual impact on an individual business, Watt said.

The target also remains provisional until the Paris conference, where it is relevant to New Zealand’s negotiating position, he said.

“The big issue becomes how do you distribute that burden? Having taken on the target, who do you impose that burden on?”

Toughening up the scheme is on the table, particularly because when the National Government loosened the scheme it did not know there would subsequently be a collapse in carbon prices, a report from Bell Gully said.

The scheme was amended in 2009 amid the global financial crisis, but a dramatic decline in carbon prices has further weakened its effect.