There are grounds for optimism; there are grounds for pessimism.
Presentationally, COP21 has been a triumph. But we will only know its the real value in retrospect. In 1815 people could not know what the Congress of Vienna would really mean for Europe, similarly the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 and in 1919 the Treaty of Versailles. Will people look back on COP21 as the turning point - the moment real progress was made on reducing carbon emissions - or as a lost opportunity?
The developing countries sought to occupy the moral high ground. But carbon emissions have been soaring in the developing world fueled by population and economic growth - and that will continue.
There are many measurement issues. For example, China is the single largest emitter of any nation but on a per capita basis its emissions are much lower than many developed countries. Caution is also needed on the integrity of data. This year there was a massive revision upwards of China's use of coal. Can we trust the data?
COP21 is progress. Global collaboration has moved ahead with the international agreement reached in Paris signed but we should hold the champagne. We do not yet have an international treaty with binding, time bound and verifiable goals for reducing CO2 emissions and sanctions that apply if its terms are violated.
Severe climate change and global warming is already "baked in" even if carbon emissions ended tomorrow. Dangerous climate change is unpreventable. No sudden transformation is coming.
Poor, unstable and badly governed countries will not suddenly improve because of climate change. Corruption and cheating on commitments is to be expected.
There is a saying, which predates climate change, but that is apt to the issue:
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts."
The hallmark of NZ First policy is pragmatism - the test is; does it work and does it benefit ordinary New Zealanders? Such common sense and skepticism is a good way to approach the outcome of COP21.
There is an old saying - "Actions speak louder than words." Those words apply given the billions of words gushing forth on climate change and COP21. In practical terms that means New Zealand must:
• Meet the international agreements committed to at COP21
• Put real urgency into developing specific sector plans - involving government, sector groups and the research community to reduce carbon emissions
• Expand investment in research aimed at lowering carbon emissions in the agricultural sector.
NZ First undertakes to spare the New Zealand public homilies, pontification and sanctimonious lectures on the topic of climate change. NZ First supports sensible measures to reduce carbon emissions that work.
Rt Hon Winston Peters is New Zealand First leader and Member of Parliament for Northland.
Summary of COP 21 agreement:
• A goal to limit global warming to 2C, or 1.5C if possible.
• A plan to make countries pledge deeper emissions cuts in future, reviewing plans every five years (starting in 2020, two years after a collective assessment in 2018 of how the world is tracking on emissions and other parts of the agreement).
• Rich nations to provide "climate finance" to poorer ones - up to $100bn a year from 2020 and more thereafter.
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