Green but not nuclear
TRACY WATKINS in Sydney, The Dominion Post, Sept. 6, 2007
Prime Minister Helen Clark has drawn a line at endorsing nuclear power as a climate change fix, putting her at odds with the United States and Australia ahead of the APEC leaders summit.
With the summit under pressure to try to forge agreement over climate change, the US and Australia are pushing nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But Trade Minister Phil Goff confirmed New Zealand was likely to raise safety and the disposal of nuclear waste as concerns.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand 's view on nuclear power was supported ``by a lot of people around the world''.
``We are not going to abrogate our sovereignty to decide what we should do as a country.'' Miss Clark, one of the architects of New Zealand 's nuclear free legislation, made it clear she saw no role for nuclear power in the climate change debate. ``It's not something that New Zealand is ever going to tout. It's understood that it meets definitions compatible with Kyoto , but that is not something we are going to endorse.''
It seems clear, however, that APEC leaders will be asked to include it in their final communiqué with US President George W Bush insisting yesterday that nuclear power was the way ahead. ``If you truly care about greenhouse gases, then you'll support nuclear power. If you believe that greenhouse gases are a priority, like a lot of us, if you take the issue seriously, like I do and John [Howard] does, then you should be supportive of nuclear power. After all, nuclear power enables you to generate electricity without any greenhouse gases.''
His comments may inflame an already sensitive debate over Australian Prime Minister John Howard's efforts to reach Apec consensus on a voluntary agreement to cut emissions. Environmentalists have accused him of trying to derail the binding targets set by the Kyoto protocol, which neither Australia nor the US has committed to, with a watered down, voluntary version. But Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer made it clear yesterday that Kyoto remained a bone of contention with Australia because of its failure to include binding targets for developing countries.
``Developed countries carry the burden. Our view is we need to move beyond that.'' He also backed Mr Bush's comments on the key role to be played by nuclear power. ``Nuclear power is part of the answer. It might not be in New Zealand , and of course there's a question about the economics of it in Australia , but having said that, think about China . China on average is building a new coal-fired power station every single week. We have to think of alternatives. ''
Miss Clark is due to arrive in Sydney tomorrow for the APEC leaders retreat, which brings together the leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific countries.
Climate change has been pushed to the fore of the agenda after barely rating a mention, and then only after a push by Miss Clark, at the last APEC summit.