30 July 2002 – New Zealand’s agriculture minister Jim Sutton said today he is “confident” the US will change its mind and ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
The change of attitude would occur because big companies were recognising the strategic significance of Kyoto-based controls on greenhouse gas emissions, he said.
Australia, like the US, which has claimed unconvincingly it would meet its Kyoto targets without ratifying, would ratify within a week of the Americans, Sutton said.
Climate change was a reality, with 18 of the 20 hottest years in recorded history having occurred since 1980, and the increasing frequency of floods, droughts, and storms.
“The cost of failure, or even of needless delay, will be far higher than the modest cost of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol,” he said in notes for a speech to constituents in his Aoraki electorate this week.
New Zealand was one of the few developed economies that make early profit from Kyoto because of its ability to cash in on the carbon sinks it had in the form of forests, and its potential wind and hydro-generation sources.
In contrast, Australia had a high economic dependence on coal. And although New Zealand did not yet have practical, affordable ways of reducing the output of methane and nitrous oxide from sheep and cattle, research into animal digestion and alternative feed components was giving encouraging results.
“This research may well generate very valuable intellectual property, but Government expects those who will profit from the research to help pay for it, in return for their greenhouse gas tax exemptions.”
Farmer lobbyists have criticised the Government’s plan to require them to contribute to greenhouse gas research in their sector, rather than pick up the economic costs of a “carbon tax”. Mr Sutton said the research programme required would probably cost about as much as current research into control of bovine tuberculosis and possums.