28 Aug 2013

More leadership sought from New Zealand on Pacific climate change

5:24 pm on 28 August 2013

Just days out from the Pacific Islands Forum in the Marshall Islands, New Zealand's latest commitments on reducing green house gases have been labelled a joke by the hosts.

The New Zealand government recently announced a commitment to cut emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2020. Climate change is the theme of the summit and the minister-in-assistance to the president, Tony de Brum, says New Zealand and Australia have to show more leadership on the issue.

TONY DE BRUM: There's no question that New Zealand and Australia, as our big brothers down south, must take a more visible and more active role in climate change leadership in the Pacific, there's no question.

DON WISEMAN: They're dragging the chain at the moment.

TDB: Well, it's been disappointing to read some of the releases that have come out. The New Zealand government had talked about 2020 in the Copenhagen meetings, and we always thought that it was reasonable. They did say at the time that it was going to be based on other countries making similar commitments, but this thing about 5 percent is just so meaningless with the kind of effort we're trying to exert on all our partners to set as ambition levels. It wasn't such a serious matter, it was a joke. The New Zealand government must revisit that issue and come up with something a little bit more meaningful and more in line with what the rest of us are trying to do in terms of climate change, the check on climate change.

DW: In terms of leadership for the Pacific region, you want New Zealand and Australia to do exactly what?

TDB: They should do more in terms of pooling political will, not just in the region, but also throughout the world. The Australians are going to be in the Security Council next, and in that role they must have contact with some of the people that are responsible for pollutants affecting climate change. They should take that role seriously, especially during the very critical time between now and when the secretary general is expected to come up with the 2015 final plans. Too many people think that this issue is 50, 60 years down the line. What we need to do is now - these 5 years between now and 2020. And there's no better opportunity for us at this current time. When the Marshalls becomes the chair of the Forum, Australia becomes the president of the Security Council, New Zealand should not just sit back and watch this thing happen - they should be part of the leadership call for climate action.

DW: The Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership will say what?

TDB: The important thing about that is we need a declaration to say the we are, in fact, that the Pacific is taking climate change leadership. And we will have this document to present to the world as a Pacific present, the Pacific gift to the climate change efforts. We want the meeting in Majuro to be remember as one in which the Pacific leaders themselves stepped up to the call for leadership in climate change efforts. We wanted to move above officials bickering about language here and there, about what should be said in this paragraph or that paragraph as has been the case in many of our meetings to date. It should go up beyond the officials level to the leadership level and to the political level, so that people can begin to act. Enough of this ego first business. This is what we're trying to say.