NZ Should Not Pay Climate Change 'Reparations'

Published: Tue 8 Dec 2009 10:24 AM
The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition
7 December 2009
For Immediate Release
New Zealand Should Not Pay Climate Change ‘Reparations’
By Barry Brill
Barry Brill, OBE, JP, LLM (Hons), MComLaw, was a former Energy Minister in the National Government 1978-81.
The draft treaty (AWGLCA/2009/INF.2) prepared by the UNFCC secretariat for the Copenhagen conference calls for some emissions reduction by all countries, and larger reductions by developed countries. There is a general consensus around this principle.
The dissension arises around the recently-added clauses, which call for major wealth transfers to flow from 30-odd rich countries (including New Zealand) to about 160 less developed countries.
This philanthropic notion goes right back to the Bali “road-map” in 2007. It was expected that some (eg low-lying islands) might require direct assistance for adaptation projects to meet existing threats.
But that initial concept moved an unbelievably long way over two years of negotiations. By the meeting in Bangkok last month, the “Group of 77” was demanding huge cash transfers, as “compensation” for climate crimes already committed by the developed countries. It was said this money must be paid by the industrialised nations to help all other countries to “diversify their economies”.
The quantum of reparations was the point of breakdown, and African countries walked out during the Barcelona negotiations. In the G20 last week, the EU promoted the creation of a $200 billion per annum slush fund, as from 2020, but received little support. So a final legally-binding treaty is now unlikely to be signed next month.
But all five negotiating groups say that a “politically binding” deal is still feasible at Copenhagen, with the aim of making it “legally binding” within 12 months.
How Much From NZ?
Our negotiators will go into the conference with a formal brief from a cabinet paper of 9 March 2009, which noted: “Proposals include putting 0.5% -1% of GNI into a centralised fund (equating to a financial contribution in the range NZ$820 million -$1640 million per annum).”
It was also noted that the high figure was nearly four times the country’s total existing spend on all overseas aid. A more illuminating comparison might have been $400 per head (man woman and child) per year, or a GST increase to about 14%.
Under the draft treaty, it might get even worse. Paragraphs 17, 33 and 41 require one fund of $140 billion for adaptation and another (equal to 0.7% of GDP) to “also compensate for lost opportunities, resources, lives, land and dignity" allegedly caused by past emissions.
So, sinful developed countries like New Zealand may be required to both pay general damages for “historical climate debt” and fund specific adaptation projects.
Of course, these payments are only the cash inducements required to get developing countries to sign up. We’ve already accepted the potential financial burden of reducing our own emissions - estimated by Prime Minister Key at $2,800 per capita per year. Most of this money will go to buying carbon credits from developing countries, but those payments won’t be regarded as settling “carbon debt”.
Basis of Claim
For up to 20 years, the UN and western media have loudly asserted that increasing CO2 emissions have wreaked terrible global damage, by way of sea level rises (in particular), hurricanes, malaria, hot and cold extremes, droughts and rain, etc. As this “climate crime” has been committed overwhelmingly by industrialised countries, the rest of the world feels entitled to reparations.
“Developed countries have been accumulating a climate debt for the past 200 years, based on their fossil fuel intensive development”, explains Stephanie Long of Friends of the Earth, “This climate debt must be repaid”.
Ambassador D’Aping of oil-rich Sudan has attacked the developed world as climate terrorists, “intent to maintain their profligate lifestyles at the expense of the rest of humanity”. His pound of flesh - “5 percent of the developed countries’ annual GDP”.
New Zealand’s Climate Crimes
At Copenhagen, and elsewhere, we should enter a firm “not guilty” plea – and decline point-blank to pay unproven damages. If necessary, we could agree to submit to international arbitration, which required normal evidence (or at least some evidence) tying any quantified losses to our specific actions.
This stance could be expected to save vast amounts of avoidable largesse over the next few years. We have a strong defence:
1. We’ve not even been here for 200 years; have low population density; use a higher percentage of renewable energy than claimants; very low industrialisation. Our agriculture, the mainstay of our economy, has been very similar (established long ago by “slash & burn” methods) to most of the claimant countries.
2. Most leading LDCs – eg China, India, Russia – have made clear that they don’t even believe the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis (which is a first-world, middle-class construct).
3. No damage could have occurred while the globe was cooling during 1937-1977, so any liability would have to be based on increased GHG emissions during the short warm period of 1978-98.
4. Since 1990, we have already accepted (under the Kyoto Protocol) full financial accountability for any increases in emissions. This period should not be double-counted.
5. Any liability must therefore relate to the 1978-1990 period. Throughout this time, we actually reduced farm hectares and stock units due to the removal of farming supports under “Rogernomics”. It being also a time of low GDP-growth and extensive forest plantation, we almost certainly reduced our net emissions.
6. We are in the lower half of the Southern Hemisphere, which has experienced no warming whatever during the last 60 years. The infinitesimal increase in Pacific Ocean sea levels during the last 100 years has been no greater than the previous 14,000 years.
7. This week’s poll by The Times found that only two people in five in Britain now accept as an established scientific fact that global warming is largely man-made. A Pew survey shows similar doubts in USA, and the trend appears to be growing. Time is on the side of the defendant.
What does our Government have in mind?
At its March meeting, the Cabinet authorized negotiators to:
• Commit New Zealand to an appropriate level of financial and technology support for developing country mitigation and adaptation actions; and
• Seek an international framework that allows NZ to contribute according to its national circumstances.
This jargon is clearly open to interpretation. But it seems to accept that we should be up for “guilt” money to some (appropriate?) extent, while seeking an opportunity to argue that we are too poor to pay the same dollar amounts as really rich countries.
This is the wrong approach. Taking this position to the negotiating table could cost taxpayers many billions of dollars, quite unnecessarily. But neither the Government nor the Opposition has made any attempt to discuss the issues in public or to engage in any debate.

Next in New Zealand politics

Poll Shows Three Quarters Of Wellingtonians Oppose Airport Sale
By: Wellington Airport
Christopher Luxon - Pre-Budget Speech To Auckland Business Chamber
By: New Zealand Government
New Zealand Supports UN Palestine Resolution
By: New Zealand Government
Greens Welcome Cross-party Approach To Climate Adaptation
By: Green Party
Climate Change – Mitigating The Risks And Costs
By: New Zealand Government
Protest March Against Fast-track Bill Announced For Auckland
By: Greenpeace
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media