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Gareth Hughes to the Acting Minister of Energy & Resources on lignite

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GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources: What is her response to the statement of leading scientist and NASA director Dr James Hansen, currently touring New Zealand, that "coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet.", and we should leave it in the ground?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Acting Minister of Energy and Resources): Fossil fuels will continue to play an important role in the global economy and in New Zealand as we transition to a low-carbon economy—for example, the judicious use of coal in New Zealand at the Huntly power station ensures the lights stay on each winter.

Gareth Hughes: Does she agree that our children and our grandchildren have a right to live on a planet not threatened by catastrophic climate change; if so, will her Government stop the development of dirty lignite coal in Southland?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I do not believe that the first part leads to the second part of the question. Of course, all Governments are interested in creating a safe and good environment for children and their families.

Gareth Hughes: What is the Minister's response to the finding in the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that companies developing lignite in Southland on a large scale are likely to receive millions of dollars of subsidies from the taxpayer?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The fact is that under our emissions trading scheme as soon as coal is mined, the miner has the liability for the emissions and must either pass on the costs to the end user or carry the cost themselves. There is no cost to the Government for emissions from coal, as coal mining is not eligible for an allocation under the emissions trading scheme.

Gareth Hughes: Does the Minister agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's recommendation that until carbon capture and storage technologies are proven, New Zealand's lignite coal should remain in the ground?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: This Government has implemented a number of policies, including the emissions trading scheme, which is focused on pricing carbon, and we are invested in a number of technologies that strengthen our portfolio of energy resources across the board.

Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very clear question: "Does the Minister agree"—

Mr SPEAKER: To save the member time, he can repeat his question.

Gareth Hughes: Thank you. Does the Minister agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, whose recommendation was that until carbon capture and storage technologies are proven, New Zealand's lignite coal should remain in the ground?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: No.

Gareth Hughes: Does the Minister agree that think-big projects that exploit dirty lignite coal are like pulling up the floorboards of our homes to throw on the fire to keep warm, and that a smart, green energy strategy would keep our children and our grandchildren warmer and more secure?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am not aware that the Government is involved in any think-big projects.

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