The Government has opted not to sign up to the second Kyoto Protocol commitment period from 2013 and will instead take its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the parallel "United Nation Convention Framework".
Protocol targets are legally binding, and the convention ones are not.
But Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said New Zealand stood 100 per cent behind its existing commitment.
"We are on track to achieving our target – indeed we are forecasting a projected surplus of 23.1 million tonnes," he said.
"Furthermore, we will remain full members of the Kyoto Protocol. There is no question of withdrawing. The issue was always different: where would we take our next commitment – under the Kyoto Protocol or under the Convention with the large majority of economies? We have decided that it is New Zealand’s best interests to do the latter."
That would mean from next year New Zealand would be aligning its climate change efforts with developed and developing countries responsible for 85 per cent of global emissions.
"This includes the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil, Russia and many other major economies," Groser said.
This is one issue where there is a clear and absolute divide between the Left and the Right. One of Helen Clark's last acts as Prime Minister before the 48th Parliament was dissolved before the 2008 election was to pass under urgency Labour's punitive Emissions Trading Scheme. To do so, she needed the support of Winston Peters, and during the Third Reading debate we were treated to the extraordinary sight of NZ First deputy leader Peter Brown criticising the Bill that he then voted for. We are convinced that NZF's vote for the ETS and Labour's refusal to censure Winston Peters for knowingly misleading Parliament were no simple coincidence. And it makes Labour's continued attacks on John Banks and John Key somewhat hypocritical!
Helen Clark was determined that New Zealand should lead the world on climate change. It certainly did no harm in terms of her UN job ambitions. John Key is far more pragmatic than that.
One of National's first achievements was to repeal Labour's ETS and pass its own far less punitive version. We were still not happy with that, describing it as "National's folly" and "not John Key and Nick Smith's finest hour" when the Act passed into law on 1 July 2010. This week's further watering-down of the ETS was another step in the right direction, but we will not be happy until the ETS is repealed in its entirety.
Predictably the usual suspects have been hyperbolic. Green MP Kennedy Graham described the passage of the ETS this week as "ecocide", and Labour MP Moana Mackey said that yesterday was a "day of shame" for New Zealand; what twaddle!
The climate may indeed be changing, but we are far from convinced that man is the primary cause. If that makes us a Climate Change Denier it is a label we wear with a degree of pride. There is no need whatsoever for New Zealand to tax its citizens out of existence, and the Government's pragmatism is very welcome.