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NZ undercutting the Pacific on key climate issue

The New Zealand government’s negotiating position is set to undercut a key priority of Pacific Island nations at the UN Climate Summit, Oxfam says.

The contentious issue of financial support for communities, including displaced communities suffering loss and damage as a result of the climate crisis, is expected to take centre stage at the Summit in Madrid from 2 –13 December 2019.

Despite sending plenty of signals that it stands with the Pacific, the New Zealand government has indicated it will not be supporting Pacific calls for financial support for the permanent and irreversible loss and damage that climate breakdown causes.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw admitted in a Cabinet paper that on the matter of loss and damage “our position does not align with the Pacific Island countries”.

Oxfam New Zealand Advocacy and Campaigns Director, Dr Joanna Spratt said:

“Without new channels of finance for loss and damage, communities are being left by themselves to bear the cost of rich countries’ pollution.

“Pacific countries cannot simply adapt their way to solutions for a crisis that is already here. Governments like New Zealand need to be serious about protecting the rights and interests of frontline communities who endure major food, property, life, and livelihood losses and/or have to uproot due to the severity of climate impacts.”


Oxfam’s briefing Forced From Home shows that on average, extreme weather disasters cost countries the equivalent of two percent of their national income over the last decade. For Small Island Developing States the figure is an astonishing 20 percent. When Cyclone Winston hit Fiji in 2016, the loss and damage from that one event amounted to around one fifth of the country’s GDP.

“Addressing loss and damage from climate destruction is not an abstract concept for our Pacific neighbours, it is a present reality,” Dr Spratt said.

“Despite governments agreeing six years ago, at COP19 in Warsaw, to begin work on addressing loss and damage, they have made slow progress on the crucial issue of raising new finance to help the world’s most vulnerable communities recover from climate shocks. At the same time, rich countries have failed to cut their emissions and are fuelling ever more severe climate disasters.

“We need New Zealand to stand with Pacific countries at COP25 and back a new finance facility for loss and damage. Those worst-hit should not be alone in bearing the costs of rebuilding towns, restoring agricultural land and re-homing communities after climate disasters,” Dr Spratt said.


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