Photo © Greenpeace/Stachowske
Photo © Greenpeace/Stachowske
Day three of the climate negotiations in Bonn, and New Zealand fails to impress.... here's the latest from Greenpeace Political Adviser Geoff Keey, who's at the talks:

New Zealand’s contribution to the talks has been disappointing to date. In fact, one official delegate I spoke to after New Zealand’s opening presentation to the 180 countries attending the negotiations said “well that was 10 minutes of nothing.”

Unfortunately, it’ll take a bit of writing to explain why it was 10 minutes of nothing, so this blog will be a bit longer than normal.

Please don’t get me wrong, my criticism of the speech by New Zealand’s Climate Change Ambassador Adrian Macey is no criticism of the man. He’s an excellent diplomat who serves his country well. He’s also a genuinely nice guy. Rather, my concern is with New Zealand’s overall direction. We’re not climate change leaders. We’re not even fast followers. Over here in Bonn it’s painfully clear that we’re laggards.

Ambassador Macey spoke about New Zealand’s recommendation for the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that the world should try to live with over the long term. In climate change negotiations speak it’s called a stabilisation goal.

New Zealand’s proposed stabilisation goal was for greenhouse gasses to stabilise at no more than 450ppm. A couple of years ago, that might have seemed OK, but the most recent science indicates that 450ppm is way too high, is likely to push the world above two degrees warming, and could trigger catastrophic climate change. Tellingly, New Zealand didn’t want to talk in terms of a temperature-based goal.

In comparison, the Association of Small Island States, including New Zealand’s Pacific Island partners, is calling for a target of 350ppm and less than 1.5 degrees of warming. These countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change so are acutely aware of what the world needs to do. If New Zealand wants to retain credibility in the Pacific, it needs to listen to them and reflect their concerns.

At this conference developed countries were expected to talk about their proposed national targets to reduce greenhouse gas pollution over the medium term. These targets are called Quantified Emission Level Reduction Obligations or as everyone here calls them QELROs. These QELROs are important indicators of a country’s commitment to tackling climate change. For example, the European Union has proposed to reduce their greenhouse gas pollution to 30% below their 1990 pollution levels.

Unfortunately, the New Zealand Government is, unlike the EU, Norway, the US and others, is still holding out to see whether special pleading about “national circumstances” is successful before offering to commit to anything.

Astonishingly, New Zealand’s Climate Change Ambassador admitted that one of the reasons for this delay was that:

The New Zealand government and parliament have been focussed on reviewing the main instrument of our climate change policy, the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.”

The Parliamentary Review of climate change policy is already impacting on New Zealand’s ability to be a responsible international player. In fact, with the United States becoming more actively involved in the negotiations New Zealand is starting to look quite backward.

However none of this is stopping New Zealand from lecturing developing countries, telling them that: "Those in a position to do so are expected to play their part in solving this global climate crisis."

New Zealand’s programme to tackle climate change has been largely abandoned. The emissions trading scheme will not deliver the emissions cuts New Zealand needs to achieve and developing countries are showing the courage to take domestic action on behalf of the climate that our Government is too afraid of big business to do. Perhaps we could start playing our part.