If left unchecked, climate change (often referred to as global warming), will have significant impacts on our economy, our environment and our society. Consultation is a vital part of our quest for practical and sustainable measures that will enable New Zealand to play its part in the international effort to slow down and minimise the negative impacts of climate change.
The New Zealand Government ratified the United Nation’s Kyoto Protocol in December 2002. This treaty sets in place rigorous actions and mandatory goals for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, the main contributor to climate change, into the earth’s atmosphere. These gases, largely carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, are released from activities such as transport, deforestation, electricity generation, waste and farming.
A critical part of the process leading up to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and developing measures to fulfil our obligations under the Protocol was the New Zealand Climate Change Project’s consultation with New Zealanders to ensure the most appropriate and effective policy measures are put in place. (The NZ Climate Change Project is a team of advisers from several government departments which was set up to co-ordinate New Zealand’s response to climate change.)
The Climate Change Project undertook two rounds of consultation on climate change and climate change policy in 2001 and 2002 involving the general public as well as specific groups including agriculture, forestry, local government, large and small-to-medium businesses, youth and formal education, and Māori.
The first round of consultation took place in October to December 2001. Its purpose was to get feedback on what people thought about the Government’s intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and what policy options could be put in place for New Zealand to meet its commitments under the Protocol. A consultation paper was widely disseminated and New Zealanders were invited to send in submissions giving feedback on the questions provided in the paper.
This was followed by 63 meetings held in 24 centres throughout the country during November 2001, including public meetings, special interest forums, sectoral stakeholder meetings, a national carbon forum and Māori hui. More than 1,500 people attended these meetings including business people, local government, Māori iwi, environmental groups, farmers and foresters. They were given presentations on climate change, its impacts, and the policy options that might be put in place to respond, and had the opportunity to give feedback or raise concerns. In total, 557 submissions were received from stakeholders, sectoral groups and the public.
New Zealand children were also involved in the consultation process. Consultation kits, developed for students and their families, were sent to every school in the country and 626 submissions were received from individuals and school groups. Each child who made a submission received a special certificate of merit from the Convenor of the Ministerial Group on Climate Change, Pete Hodgson, to acknowledge their contribution.
In addition, the Climate Change Project thought it was important to find out the views of New Zealanders who did not participate in the climate change consultation process and undertook a nationwide telephone survey involving the general public.
Feedback from the first round of consultation was used in the development of a National Interest Analysis (NIA) which was tabled in Parliament in February 2002. The NIA is a requirement for any international treaty that the New Zealand government enters into, covering the reasons New Zealand should become party to the treaty and the effects of the treaty entering into force (the NIA also outlined the key principles that guided the development of the Government’s preferred policies – input received during the consultation was fundamental to the design of these principles).
The second round of consultation in May 2002, sought input from New Zealanders on the preferred policy package (developed using feedback on policy options in the first round of consultation) for meeting New Zealand’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. A consultation document on the proposed policies was distributed at the end of April asking people if the Government had the right approach and if the policies were balanced and fair. This was supported by 49 meetings and hui around the country with local government representatives, businesses, special interest groups and Māori, giving these groups an opportunity to look closely at what the impacts of the policy mix might be.
Feedback from the second round of consultation was used in the process that led to the Government confirming its policies on climate change. Following confirmation of this policy package and enactment of the Climate Change Response Bill 2002, the New Zealand Government ratified the Kyoto Protocol on 19 December 2002, joining 104 other countries to do so.
The Kyoto Protocol is a United Nations-led international agreement on climate change.
It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrialised nations during 2008-2012 (the Protocol’s first commitment period) to five percent below what they were in 1990. This is only the first step. Further cuts, probably also involving more countries, will be necessary in the future to substantially reduce the risks of climate change.
The Protocol has to be signed and ratified by 55 countries (including those responsible for at least 55% of the developed world’s 1990 carbon dioxide emissions) before it can enter into force. Only countries that ratify the Protocol are bound by it.
The first condition has already been met – Norway was the 55th country to ratify in May 2002. New Zealand ratified in December 2002 and Russia is expected to ratify this year.
The Kyoto Protocol would commit New Zealand to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to the level they were in 1990 over the first commitment period (2008-2012) or to take responsibility for any emissions above this level.
Our latest greenhouse gas inventory shows that New Zealand’s emissions are increasing, with carbon dioxide emissions in 2000 about 23% higher than they were in 1990.
Transport sector emissions are continuing to grow rapidly and now account for almost 45% of New Zealand’s total CO2 emissions. If we do nothing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, our total emissions could be 14-20% over our target by 2012. New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions are currently about 5% above 1990 levels.
Find out more!
A study in how government departments encourage participation from different sectors of the community, by the Climate Change Office.