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Environmental Management Conference 2018 keynote speech – Climate Ambassador Jo Tyndall

By   /  April 23, 2018  /  Comments Off on Environmental Management Conference 2018 keynote speech – Climate Ambassador Jo Tyndall

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Source: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

New Zealand as a leader in the global fight against climate change

Thank you for the opportunity as part of this conference (external link)to put the national conversation on environmental and climate issues into a global context.

Paris Agreement

The global context is, of course, defined by the Paris Agreement (adopted December 2015 and entered into force a year later). With Tanzania, 176 countries have now ratified (this is phenomenal speed for a multilateral treaty)

As a reminder of why the Paris Agreement is different – all governments are to take action, not just developed countries, as was the case with the Kyoto Protocol.

All done and dusted? Think again. To take a building analogy: the Paris Agreement erected the basic structure, but it’s not weathertight or finished. Implementation guidelines (the rule-book) need to be completed. These includes rules on how Parties report and are held to account for their actions, as well as guidelines to ensure international carbon markets operate with clear environmental integrity.

2018 is therefore a big year: at the Ministerial conference in December, Parties need to sign off the Paris Agreement Work Programme, or PAWP. Ministers will also participate in the Talanoa Dialogue (more on that later).

Why should we care about a few technical details? Without them, the Paris Agreement won’t be functional. The Agreement needs to have environmental integrity (robust rules, for mutual trust, confidence, clarity and credibility), it needs to be fair (applicable to all, not put us at a competitive disadvantage), and it needs to have mechanisms that support reaching its temperature goals.

My role as APA co-Chair gives me extra responsibilities in completing the PAWP.

The global commitment to the Paris Agreement remains strong

Almost every country on Earth has committed to the Paris Agreement.

Last year, the US sent shock-waves around the world by announcing it would withdraw (in Nov 2020) unless it could negotiate better terms.

So far the diplomatic response has been one of deep disappointment, but also hope. There has certainly been no domino effect – if anything, the opposite

Within the US, too, the business community and local/state-level governments have filled the void.

It’s also good the US is still at the negotiating table and engaging in the UNFCCC discussions.

Nearly a year on from President Trump’s announcement, the rest of the world’s commitment to the Paris Agreement remains as strong as ever.   

Now we need to grapple with how to deliver on what we signed up to.

New Zealand as a leader on climate change

New Zealand has already determined that leadership is a responsibility we share – that’s been signalled in the clearest terms by both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Climate Change.

Climate change demands broad and deep action, and certainly can’t just be left to the big economies. If all countries with less than 1% of global emissions failed to act, close to 30% of GHGs would remain part of the problem.

What does our leadership mean and look like?

First, it means taking ambitious action at home, setting us on course to transition to a sustainable and climate resilient future.

We can’t call on other countries (some of whom are very big emitters) to act if we don’t. So this is in part about establishing a moral mandate. It’s also in our national self-interest. OECD and other reports (most recently a Westpac one produced by EY and Vivid Economics) have calculated net economic gains from transitioning early, and the significant costs of leaving things too late.

The transition to a carbon neutral economy

The government has said New Zealand will enact zero carbon legislation, with an ambitious 2050 target reflected in the Act.

The legislation will also establish a Climate Change Commission to provide independent advice on setting and meeting successive carbon budgets in support of the 2050 target.

The Ministry for the Environment is leading consultation during June/July, in preparation for the zero carbon legislation.

This economic transformation will be supported by a new Green Investment Fund to drive investment into clean, sustainable, resilient infrastructure.

The review of the Emissions Trading Scheme will be completed with adjustments to its settings to align it with the long-term economic transformation.

It’s increasingly clear a global transition is under way. The challenge, both domestically and internationally, is to ensure it is planned and equitable and that it spurs innovation and allows business to identify and seize economic opportunities.

Business and state, regional and city-level governments are fundamentally important to the global transition to carbon neutral economies. It’s important to have mutually reinforcing policies and action.

Being a leader also means working on the world stage. New Zealand taking action in isolation on what is a global problem wouldn’t make much sense. We are a very active, engaged and constructive player internationally.

The multilateral rule-set is central to tackling climate change. New Zealand contributes constructively to UNFCCC, so the Paris Agreement is robust, credible and delivers environmental integrity.

In agriculture, we’re looked to as a world leader. For example, our expertise and reliance on the primary sector made it a no-brainer for us to initiate and lead the 49-nation Global Research Alliance which is looking at ways to reduce agricultural emissions without compromising food production.

We are also promoting the phase-out of harmful and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that cost the world around UD$500 billion each year. Removing them could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by almost 10 per cent by 2050.

We launched a communique (endorsed by 40 governments and hundreds of international businesses) at the Paris COP in 2015.

In 2015, New Zealand led a Ministerial Declaration with 20 countries, pledging environmental integrity in the use of carbon markets.

In December 2017, New Zealand took a joint Ministerial Statement on the issue to the WTO, where it was endorsed by 11 other economies.

We are also active members of international coalitions working to phase out coal generation, provide climate finance to support developing country climate action, reduce short-lived climate pollutants, and help our economies transition to carbon neutrality.

And of course, New Zealand scientists are actively involved in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change both as panel members and as contributors of research papers. IPCC authors met in Christchurch before Easter to discuss a special report they are writing on climate change and land [full title “Climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrialecosystems”]  

Our place in the Pacific

The Government has emphasised New Zealand stands with the Pacific on climate change. The most important way of doing this is through financial and technical support (for clean energy, and resilience-building). Pacific leadership provides moral and practical impetus to strengthening global commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Pacific Island countries are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (for some it represents an existential threat), and are very active in advocating for an effective global response.

Fiji – the first small island developing state to convene a COP – used its Presidency of COP23 last November to highlight challenges faced by Pacific Island countries, including loss and damage from climate change, climate finance, and climate migration.

These remain live issues that we are working actively with the international community to resolve.

The Government has been clear about its intention to deepen New Zealand’s engagement with our Pacific neighbours on climate change.

Pacific leaders have expressed a desire to work more closely with New Zealand to this end. 

Our objectives and positions are not always the same, but deep engagement means we support each other wherever we can, and respect/understand each other where our positions are different.


Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to convey the idea of inclusive and open dialogue.

Part of the Paris outcome was agreement to convene a “facilitative dialogue” in 2018, as a collective stocktake – assessing and encouraging global progress towards the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of reducing emissions to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – and, if possible, to 1.5 degrees.

Fiji, the president of last year’s COP, re-named the stocktake the Talanoa Dialogue and posed three key questions to guide it:

Where are we now?

Where do we want to go?

How do we get there?

The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, ideas and skills – to build empathy and mutual respect, and to create the motivation to make wise decisions for the collective good.

On the first question, we already know that, despite almost every nation on Earth committing to the Paris Agreement, our combined current nationally determined contributions (or targets) are not yet enough to get us there.

So, in the context of the international climate negotiations, Talanoa aims to help countries to be as ambitious as possible in setting and updating their emissions reduction goals (due to be communicated by 2020).

The Talanoa Dialogue will take place throughout this year – Fiji is encouraging Paris Agreement parties and non-state actors to take part in domestic and regional Talanoa.

The rich stories and ideas we garner from these conversations will culminate in a political level Talanoa at COP24 in December.

We’ve signalled New Zealand would like our narratives to focus on: our experience with agriculture; the importance of a just transition; and levelling the energy playing field by supporting a global phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies. The framing for the narrative will also reflect the unique place and perspectives Māori and Māoritanga bring to our climate change story.  

We’re keen to encourage a national conversation on the Talanoa questions, so if you’re interested, do visit the MFAT web site for more information on how you can contribute in the build-up to the 24th international meeting in Poland in December.

The prospect of change can seem daunting, but it’s also exciting – it opens a world of possibilities for how we live, how we optimise resources, and how we can position New Zealand as a preferred producer of low-carbon products. 

Thank you. 

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