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Message From The Planet And Its People: Go John Go

Message From The Planet And Its People: Go John Go

John Key yesterday repeated his unwillingness to commit to attending the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen and signalled that New Zealand may pay $30 million per year into a fund to help developing countries cope with climate change. Is this the kind of offer that will give encouragement to people around the world suffering from climate change? Hardly.

While Key continues to claim leadership in the fight against climate change, the facts speak for themselves – New Zealand’s emissions reductions target is a fraction of what is required; the Government has threatened to rescind the target altogether if it does not get its way in the negotiations; we have refused to commit to paying any of our climate debt to poor countries until the last minute of the 11th hour; and the Prime Minister still hasn’t even decided to participate in what is being billed as the most important conference in human history, when 90 other Heads of State will be there.

“We are not pulling our weight on climate change and the world is watching. John Key has said to Federated Farmers that they stand to suffer if foreign customers don’t believe New Zealand is taking the climate change fight seriously. It is now amply clear that we are not,” said Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand, Barry Coates. “No more excuses – there is nothing more important for John Key to be doing than to go to Copenhagen. We must be part of the solution, because on a per capita basis, we have been major contributors to causing the problem.”

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For years, one of the main sticking points in the climate negotiations has been the issue of whether developed countries will agree to pay their climate debt. And for years the money available for poor countries to cope with the climate impacts has been woefully inadequate. Yesterday’s announcement will be seen by people on the front lines of climate change for what it is – a fig leaf, failing to cover an increasingly obvious burden of responsibility.

“The international community, including organisations like the UN and the World Bank, agree that the amount of money needed to help poor countries protect themselves from climate change and build low-carbon economies is of the order of US$150 billion per year,” said Coates. “Oxfam’s research shows that New Zealand’s fair share of this funding, according to the pollution we’ve put into the atmosphere and our wealth per capita, is around NZ$700 million per year. John Key has announced we’re possibly willing to pay four per cent of our debt. That’s doesn’t call for applause, it risks a walk-out.”

While the idea of a ‘Copenhagen Launch Fund’ is like a small down payment, it does not constitute the basis of a fair and adequate agreement in Copenhagen. Likewise, the idea that it is a way to entice developing countries to agree to stronger emissions reductions is a smokescreen. Major developing countries like China, India and Brazil have already committed to stronger targets than most rich countries. While New Zealand dithers, China is rapidly becoming the world leader in green technology.

“The communities that Oxfam works with around the world need stronger sea walls, safe water supplies, drought-resistant crops, cyclone-proof shelters, emergency radios, mosquito nets and rescue boats. This is climate change adaptation. Paying for it is the responsibility of industrialised countries, and the cost is a sliver of the amount of money given to bail out private companies last year. Justice is calling, and she’s saying, ‘Sign a real deal in Copenhagen,’” concluded Coates.


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