$1b fund persuades Greens to support Climate Bill

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons yesterday said her party's support for Labour's emission trading scheme was based on the setting up of a $1 billion fund to be spent over about 15 years on insulating homes and making them more energy efficient.

Some Green MPs were happier than others with the decision, she said, adding Green supporters should be happy with the result.

"If they are not, I would say, 'Come and try to do better'. We have always said the scheme needed to share the effort much more fairly," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"Along with the one-off financial payment, this goes a long way to compensating households for their higher prices, reducing energy waste and carbon emissions."

The $1 billion fund would be administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority board with money recycled from the emission trading scheme.

Low income homes would be completely subsidised, but higher incomes homes would get a lesser subsidy.

A cash payment would be made to all households in 2010 to compensate them for rising electricity prices.

The payment would be income driven, not on energy consumption, and it would be funded from emissions trading revenue with no extra cost to the Government.

Other key gains for the Greens were. - A national policy statement on biodiversity under the Resource Management Act by February 2011.

An innovation fund where 150,000 credits a year would go towards new carbon-reducing technology.

For the Environment Minister to be legally required to set carbon reduction targets.

These would be based on an energy strategy announced last October which included halving per capita emissions from 2040, tougher energy efficiency standards for buildings and greater fuel efficiency for vehicles.

A "small" emissions reduction target for things like nitrous oxide, which the Government, not farmers, would take responsibility for achieving.

The Greens tried to persuade the Government to bring agriculture and transport into the ETS sooner, but did not make much headway.

Some small concessions had been gained on nitrate reductions before 2013.

It remained unfair New Zealanders were subsidising farmers for five years, she said.

Ms Fitzsimons emphasised the scheme was a "small" step, estimated to reduce emissions by about 2%, and far more needed to be done.

The party would fight for other mechanisms such as codes, standards and regulations; better public transport; and major technology change.

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson said rushing into the proposal was a high risk response to the issue of climate change.

The scheme would jeopardise the New Zealand economy and it would have little, if any chance of achieving the global environmental outcomes sought.

Ms Fitzsimons said the Government had also agreed there would be investment in a range of technologies and practices which could reduce agricultural emissions.

Asked if she believed the Government had taken the Green support for granted, Ms Fitzsimons said that had not been the case.

There had been prolonged discussions and meetings between the two parties.

The National Party opposes the scheme, saying it is a rushed response to climate change that carries high economic risks.

National says if it wins the election it will develop its own ETS and introduce it within nine months of taking office.

The Greens called for public consultation on the issue and received 2750 emails over the weekend.

There was a majority supporting the scheme, but once the lobby groups were taken out, the result was finely balanced, Ms Fitzsimons said.


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