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UN Climate Talks: New Zealand Backpedalling

UN Climate Talks: New Zealand Backpedalling, Incoherent And Lacking Morality

It’s been another year of extreme weather and climate change ministers and negotiators are meeting again, this time in Doha. UN climate change talks are set to begin on November 26. It is an ironic location, being the birthplace of the infamous, and stalled, “Doha Development Round”, which has left poor countries hanging, unable persuade the most powerful nations to play fair. Oxfam is calling on governments, including the New Zealand Government, to rise above our narrowly-defined self interest and make real progress towards a fair, ambitious and binding global deal. If we don’t cooperate, we all lose.

In Bali in 2007 the world – including New Zealand – came together to tackle climate change and agreed the Bali Action Plan, which established a pathway for all nations to take action on their greenhouse gas emissions and pay for the damage that industrialised countries have caused. In Copenhagen in 2009, a deal was supposed to be sealed, putting us on a path to avoid a catastrophic future and to help poor and vulnerable people protect themselves from the climate impacts that they had little or no responsibility for…but negotiators flew away in defeat. In Cancun in 2010 they got back together to salvage the process, this time successfully establishing a Green Climate Fund as the channel for climate adaptation money, of which they made a commitment to provide $100 billion annually.

There is however a problem – two years later, the Green Climate Fund is still empty.

Adding insult to injury, the one thing negotiators were able to accomplish in Copenhagen was a down payment of $30 billion to poor countries for 2010-2012, called “Fast Start Finance”. Rich countries – again including New Zealand – agreed that this finance would be “new and additional”. But today Oxfam publishes new research titled “The looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’: An evaluation of Fast Start Finance and its lessons for the future” showing that this money has been anything but. In fact, only 33 per cent of Fast Start Finance can be considered new – the remainder of the money was pledged before the Copenhagen conference – and at most only 24 per cent was additional to existing aid promises.

As far as New Zealand’s behaviour, 100 per cent of the Fast Start Finance provided has come out of the aid budget. Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand, said, “There is a fundamental problem here. Money to help poor countries cope with the devastating effects of climate change should not be confused with aid. It is our small contribution towards helping poor nations cope with the pollution we caused. Raiding the aid budget to pay this debt means fewer kids will get to go to school, women will still have to walk huge distances to get water, and people will continue to get sick because they have no toilets.”

Despite almost universal acceptance of climate science and acknowledgement that climate change is one of the most profound problems facing humanity, our government is backpedalling on any meaningful solution. Coates said, “We still have the fifth highest per capita emissions in the OECD, but our ETS has been gutted to the point where commitments are pushed out to the never-never and the carbon price is so low that it creates no incentive for a change in practice.

“New Zealand has pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only legally binding mechanism to reduce climate change pollution, and reneged on the agreement for a second commitment period. Meanwhile, our negotiators continue to push for self-interest in the form of rule changes that would let us off the hook for cutting down all the trees planted in the 1990s, as well as fiddling with carbon accounting to avoid us having to actually reduce emissions at all.

“This is simply incoherent. What’s more, basic morality and ethics dictate that we should not unload the consequences of our actions on innocent, vulnerable people…not to mention our own children, and theirs.

“New Zealand negotiators are in Doha now. They have the obligation to lead and not play the politics of self-interest. Funding to protect the world’s most vulnerable people, including our Pacific neighbours, is crucial. We need progress to reduce shipping emissions, as well as new taxes on financial transactions in order to generate revenue for the Green Climate Fund, so it is not left as an empty shell for the third year in a row.

“Business as usual is destroying our planet and endangering the lives of millions of people. We can benefit as a society from climate action. It is time for our government to start living up to our commitments and stop damaging our hard-earned reputation for climate responsibility,” said Coates.



A copy of Oxfam’s briefing “The looming climate ‘fiscal cliff’: An evaluation of Fast Start Finance and its lessons for the future” is available here:


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