30 Nov 2009

Key 'not ruling out' attending Copenhagen summit

4:18 pm on 30 November 2009

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out attending the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen next week, if it appears likely a binding agreement will be made.

About 190 nations will gather in the Danish capital from 7-18 December to work out a global deal to fight climate change to replace the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Leaders of the 54 Commonwealth countries, including Mr Key, issued a declaration on climate change during a summit in Trinidad at the weekend.

Though it does not set specific emissions targets or commitments, the declaration does call for a legally binding agreement to be reached in Copenhagen.

The main opposition Labour Party is urging Mr Key to go. Labour says the attendance of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the conference shows how seriously countries such as Australia take climate change.

Labour's Charles Chauvel says Mr Key's absence from the United Nations summit will be noted.

"Kevin Rudd, the prime minister, is going to Copenhagen - New Zealand looks like it's missing in action. If I, as Labour's climate change spokesperson, can pay my own way to go ... surely the least that John Key can do is join the Government delegation and show that New Zealand does take this problem seriously."

However, Mr Key says regardless of whether he goes or not New Zealand will be well represented with Climate Change ministers Nick Smith and Tim Groser and a climate change negotiator present.

"I think they'll be in the best position, really, to run that New Zealand delegation. If it looked like a binding deal was going to be sealed at Copenhagen, then I'm not ruling out getting on a plane and going."

Dr Smith says Mr Rudd is attending the conference as he is chairing one of the key committees involved in negotiations at Copenhagen.

Commonwealth leaders in Trinidad also agreed to establish a $10 billion-a-year fund to help smaller countries tackle global warming.

Mr Key estimates New Zealand would have to contribute between $25 million and $30 million annually to the fund.