Key in climate talks U-turn

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says he will attend the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen later this month.

Mr Key had originally not intended to go the the United Nations talks because he saw it as a "photo opportunity" where any firm conclusions on a binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would not be reached.

However pressure built for him to attend as other leaders including United States President Barack Obama announced they were attending.

World leaders are facing increased pressure to take a stand and force through an agreement.

This morning Mr Key confirmed he would go to the conference which will be held on December 17 and 18.

"I have reassessed our position and taken advice from our negotiating team," Mr Key said.

"I have decided that on balance it makes sense for me to be there for the leaders' meeting."

Mr Key said the circumstances had changed in recent weeks.

"While it's unlikely a binding agreement will be reached at Copenhagen, political momentum is growing which is why in recent weeks a lot more leaders have indicated they will be attending.

"By my absence I wouldn't want to give the impression that New Zealand isn't committed to playing its part in the fight against climate change.

"The fact is that the Government is committed to doing something about climate change, balancing our environmental responsibilities with our economic opportunities."

Earlier former head of the World Trade Organisation Mike Moore said the decision would give New Zealand access to higher level talks.

Mr Moore, also a former Labour prime minister and foreign minister, told Radio New Zealand that it made a difference for leaders to front up.

"These things are very structured, there will be informal meetings with prime ministers and presidents, there'll be another tier of ministers, then there's another tier of senior officials so he will get better access than just his ministers," he said.

"But whether this will change the result is another thing, because much of this is precooked (negotiated in advance by officials) as it should be."

Mr Moore said New Zealand's emissions trading scheme (ETS) legislation was flawed but the country had a point of view to present.

Mr Key would also be able to use the meeting to build contacts that would help him in years to come.

"He can cement his personal relationships on this and other issues, New Zealand can make its case in a modest way, there ought to be some sense of proportion about this - the whole world is not waiting to hear what New Zealand says.

"If New Zealand does nothing or closes down and every person leaves that would have about as much impact as stopping China for about 24 hours not even that, but it's worth doing we must play our bit."

Climate Change Minister Nick Smith, who pushed hard to get the ETS legislation through Parliament ahead of the conference, is to attend the conference.

Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is going too.

He is in a difficult position after his parliament rejected yesterday laws to set up a carbon trading scheme.

 

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