3 Sep 2015

NZ and Australia urged to strengthen emission targets

8:36 am on 3 September 2015

The NGO Oxfam is calling on New Zealand to strengthen its commitment to reducing emission targets in support of its Pacific neighbours.

Tebikenikora, a village in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. September 5 2011

Countries like Kiribati (pictured) contribute little emissions, but are some of the worst-hit by climate change. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Regional leaders meet at the Pacific Islands Forum summit in Papua New Guinea next week, and climate change will be high on the agenda.

Oxfam New Zealand's executive director, Rachael Le Mesurier, says while the Pacific is the first and the worst-hit by climate change, it contributes least to global pollution.

She says climate change is the most significant leadership challenge facing the region.

"Australia and New Zealand are presently regarded as two of the worst performing governments when it comes to climate change and drag on international efforts, so this backwardness is all the more remarkable given that we are both surrounded by some the most climate vulnerable countries on the earth."

However, such a commitment from the two countries seems unlikely, with New Zealand and Australia this week telling the United Nations that they cannot do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions because it would be too costly.

New Zealand's climate ambassador, Jo Tyndall, told a meeting in Germany that the country is dependent on dairy and sheep farming -- a major source of greenhouse gas methane.

She said that the country's target of cutting emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 would "represent a significantly higher cost to our economy" than action by many other countries.

Meanwhile, the Australian government said that country's dependence on coal for two thirds of its electricity generation made it costly to rein in emissions.

Australia's climate ambassador, Peter Woolcott, said its goal of reducing its emissions by between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels in 15 years was "an ambitious target".

How Pacific leaders react to that, and the outcome of the forum's discussions, will be looked at with interest ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November.