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Greens want Key climate u-turn on the ice

The Green Party says Prime Minister John Key's upcoming visit to Antarctica ideally should signal a change in government climate change policy.

Mr Key will fly to Antarctica on Thursday, and his four-day visit will "provide an opportunity to see first-hand the issues facing Antarctica and the Southern Ocean".

The visit is aimed at promoting New Zealand's scientific research on the ice and also the close links with the United States there.

Green Party climate change spokesman Kennedy Graham agrees Mr Key needs to look at issues first hand "so he can recognise the magnitude and imminence of climate change trend".

In 2005, Mr Key told parliament he was suspicious about global warming claims and the Kyoto Protocol was "a complete and utter hoax".

"He was badly behind the play. He and his government have done nothing to make things better in the last couple of years of climate change policy," Dr Graham told NZ Newswire.

Perhaps optimistically, he said Mr Key should use his visit as a chance for a spectacular turnaround in policy.

"He can go down and symbolically stand on the ice, acknowledge his mistake of 2005, acknowledge the severity of the threat right now and undertake to change New Zealand's climate change policy.

"You don't have to go down to the ice to listen to the scientists because the scientists have been speaking as a global community... the overwhelming consensus for the last 20 years is that it has been a threat."

Last year the government decided it would not sign up for the second commitment period of Kyoto.

It also made changes to the emissions trading scheme which delayed the introduction of some industry sectors to the polluter-pays regime and giving agriculture an indefinite reprieve.

"That is fundamentally wrong. This is the critical decade. The 2020s will be the decade of consequences, not the decade of the causal effect," Dr Graham said.