20 September 2007

Steps to tackle climate change welcomed

The Government's steps to tackle climate change announced today have been welcomed by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright.

The challenges posed by climate change are so serious and long-term that bold and far-reaching measures are needed, she says. While northern hemisphere climates are expected to warm more rapidly than those of the southern hemisphere, New Zealand can expect an increased number of extreme weather events such as storms and droughts.

"The science of climate change is really solid and it would be reckless to ignore it. New Zealand is a small island nation which lives off its biologically-based industries, so for us the stakes are very high."

Dr Wright says the strong public support for government action on climate change is very encouraging, and the time is right to put an enduring solution in place. It is essential that the final shape of the carbon emissions trading scheme wins wide political support. She expects that a cap and trade system will unfold over time to become simply part of the natural way we do things.

"The cost of emitting carbon dioxide will go into every monetary transaction, and penetrate every aspect of economic life. The long-term effect will be to put the entire economy on a far more sustainable footing, and that is a goal we should all support."

A carbon emissions trading scheme already operates in Europe, and Australia is looking at setting one up. These point to where the world is going and if New Zealand is to have any influence on global emitters, it too must act decisively. If every country plays 'I will if you will', we will get nowhere, says Dr Wright.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is an independent officer of Parliament. Dr Wright was appointed for a five-year term in March this year.