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Thursday, March 26

Greenpeace increases call for emission cuts

New Zealand must make deeper and faster cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought, Greenpeace warned today, ahead of the first of the year’s global climate talks which begin in Bonn (1) over the weekend. The UN talks, which culminate in Copenhagen in December, are expected to come up with an overall greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for the developed world.

In light of the latest climate science, Greenpeace (both in New Zealand and internationally) has revised its demands of governments, saying developed countries as a group must agree to cut emissions by 40% by 2020 (2), if there’s to be any chance of averting catastrophic climate impacts. Developing countries must also take ambitious action.

“In order to avoid runaway climate change, global emissions must not only peak by 2015, but then fall rapidly to as close to zero as possible by mid-century,” said Greenpeace New Zealand Senior Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer.

Greenpeace had previously stated that the combined developed country target for 2020 should be at least 30%, and that global emissions should be cut by at least 50% by 2050. However the emerging scientific consensus makes it obvious this won’t be enough.

“The reality and pace of climate change is far outstripping anything previously thought possible. Changes in the environment being witnessed today, including the rapid melting of the Arctic summer sea ice, make it clear that the threat of catastrophe is far more immediate.

“The only way to turn this around is to cut early and cut deep. New Zealand is already risking its international standing and trading position by retreating on climate policies since the new Government came to power. Urgent action is expected of all nations and those that lag behind will face the consequences.

“New Zealand is one of the worst climate performers in the developed world. Thanks to massive dairy expansion and intensification and the lack of any kind of climate policy, we are increasingly being seen abroad as ‘not doing our bit’ to help reach a global deal. The National Government has a lot of work to do and needs to get on with it for the sake of New Zealand, rather than sticking its head deeper into the sand.”

Boxer warned that developed country agreement on an overall target was absolutely crucial to get a science-based climate agreement by the end of this year. “This is not about governments negotiating a soft deal through pleading for special treatment – it is whether they want to save the world from catastrophic climate change." Failure to agree this over the next two weeks would put further pressure on the UN process throughout this year.

He said that the economic crisis demonstrates that Government leaders can take strong action in the face of an emergency. “The solutions to tackle greenhouse gas emissions already exist and many of them can stimulate the economy and get it out of recession – it is purely an issue of political will. Achieving the deep cuts needed to stop runaway climate change will require political leadership at the highest level. The window of opportunity for averting disaster is closing rapidly”.

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