New Zealand's coal exports to China were labelled 'hypocritical' by audience members at a public meeting on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)in Blenheim last night.
Climate Change Minister Nick Smith addressed the meeting - part of the Government's road show on the scheme - and was adamant that the scheme was New Zealand's best option.
"The sooner we start an ETS, the easier the transition will be," Mr Smith said. "Also it will protect our clean, green image and market access."
Afforestation would be encouraged and grow while New Zealand would honour its Kyoto commitment, he said. New Zealand could not promote itself as clean and green when its carbon emissions had gone up 25 per cent since 1990.
However, in question time, farmers, foresters and others questioned the integrity of the Kyoto Protocol and the theory of global warming. One speaker termed New Zealand coal exports for China to burn in thousands of coal fired stations as as "blatant hypocrisy".
"Yes New Zealand does export coal to China but Kyoto penalises the country that burns it but not the country that exports," replied Mr Smith.
"But in the end it's adding to global warming, if you believe the theory," said a woman's voice. "China's building three new coal fired power stations this week."
Responding, Mr Smith said China was doing much to curb its emissions.
"You would not believe how much China is doing. Those new power stations are to replace old dirty ones. China has more solar heating per capita than New Zealand and it's spending $800 billion on climate change."
"But nothing is being done about population control. After all, people cause emissions," said a woman.
Seddon farmer Charles Waddy said ice ages had come and gone over the earth's history and climate change was natural.
The minister's presentation came under fire when Blenheim accountant Robin Sutherland said a graph of tree plantings painted "a false picture" as it represented projections rather than actual plantings.
"You're using dodgy statistics," he said. "And I note government has dropped the term global warming in favour of climate change."
"I assume you're a sceptic?" questioned Mr Smith.
"In a democracy, I'm entitled to make up my own mind," replied Mr Sutherland.
Foresters were clearly uneasy about the ETS. Havelock forester Paul Millen questioned why natural native regeneration had not been taken into account. Forestry consultant Rob Lawrence said the liabilities under the ETS were so great, foresters would not harvest the trees but would leave them in the ground.
"I'll bet a bottle of Marlborough's best wine, that forestry plantings will increase," said Mr Smith.
Ward farmer Peter McPartlin said the government was ignoring public opinion: "This is a democracy. You're not listening to the people," he said.
Mr Smith replied that at the last election only the Act Party was opposed to the ETS.
"If you're not happy with us or believe climate change is a load of nonsense then at next year's election vote for a party that doesn't want an ETS."
Mr McPartlin: "You're a one term government."
Mr Smith: "We'll see at election time next year."
Waikokaho Valley farmer Pat O'Sullivan said Minister Smith was "ultra-confident" and said the Government should put it to a referendum at next year's election.
"No," Mr Smith replied." Government will not hold a referendum. We were elected to carry out an ETS."
Mr O'Sullivan called for a meeting vote by a show of hands.
However, local Kaikoura MP Colin King who chaired the meeting, said there would be no vote.