New Zealand's new carbon laws set for safe passage

WELLINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - New Zealand brought its revised scheme to cut carbon emissions before parliament on Thursday, confident of enacting it before about 190 nations meet in December to hammer out a new global climate pact.

In contrast to neighbouring Australia, where legislation for a similar scheme is stuck in political deadlock, the New Zealand government has struck deals with minor parties to ensure its legislation makes a relatively safe passage through parliament.

New Zealand, like Australia, proposes to use a market-based scheme to put a price on carbon emissions and plans to phase it in from July next year. It revised the original legislation this month to cut costs for businesses and households.

New Zealand Climate Change Minister Nick Smith said in introducing the legislation that the revised scheme was workable and affordable, balancing environmental and economic needs.

"It takes a responsible approach to the climate change problem caused by greenhouse gas emissions while being realistic about how much a small country like New Zealand can contribute," Smith said in parliament.

The governing minority National Party has done a deal with the small United Future and Maori parties to have the legislation introduced and referred to a parliamentary committee for detailed study and public submissions, standard procedure for new bills.

The revised scheme will cover all sectors and all gases, but increases subsidies to industry and offers price caps on the cost of carbon. For a full report see [ID:nWEL157740]

For a factbox on the proposed changes see [ID:nWEL486229]

Smith said he wanted the committee to report back on the legislation by mid-November to allow its passage into law before the Copenhagen climate change negotiations in December.

The Maori Party, which has a support agreement with National on confidence and financial matters, has reversed its previous policy favouring a carbon tax and agreed to support the bill. Its five seats and the single United Future vote, will provide National with the necessary majority in the 122 seat parliament.

Business groups have backed the proposed changes because the previous scheme, brought in by the then Labour-led government, was seen as too expensive and ambitious.

Environmental groups have criticised the revised scheme as being too lenient on carbon-emitting sectors.

The government has said its target to cut greenhouse gas emissions would be between 10 and 20 percent by 2020 on 1990 levels, depending on the outcome of the Copenhagen meeting.

For a Factbox on New Zealand's emissions profile, double click on [ID:nWEL472043] (Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Mark Bendeich)