18 Oct 2021

Government pledges $1.3b to climate change-affected countries

11:44 am on 18 October 2021

The government is quadrupling its funding for international climate change aid to $1.3 billion over four years.

Damage from Cyclone Gita in American Samoa.

Investing in solar capacity around the Pacific will maintain electricity supply when other sources of power are knocked out by cyclones and other climate-related weather events. Photo: Twiiter/ Aumua Amata

The announcement was made in the lead up to the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow later this month.

At least half the funding will go to the Pacific.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw told Morning Report the money would support a number of projects, with a particular focus on helping Pacific Island nations adapt to the effects of climate change.

Some of the projects would be an expansion of work New Zealand was already helping its Pacific neighbours with, Shaw said.

"We've invested quite heavily in solar capacity around the Pacific; that both assists with bringing down the greenhouse gases of the islands themselves but it particularly helps with resilience in terms of cyclones and so on because what happens when you have a major event like that is that their diesel supplies get disrupted, and so having electricity that's generated and stored and used on site is very significant in terms of ensuring the capacity of their power grids to keep going."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the investment would help enable clean energy projects in developing countries, ensure crops were drought resilient and communities were protected from sea level rise and storm surges.

She said the climate change clock was ticking, so it was important New Zealand lifted its contribution to bring it into line with other countries.

Shaw said the funding in today's announcement was grant money and didn't include soft loans to Pacific nations, which some commentators have argued breed economic dependancy.

"The way that we conduct our programme is that it's actually led by the islands themselves, so we really respond to the kinds of requests that they make.

The issue of climate change and its effects was the primary concern raised with him and other ministers whenever they spoke to Pacific Island leaders, Shaw said.

"Every time any of our ministers or any part of our government has any form of dialogue with any of the islands in the Pacific the number one thing that they talk to us about is climate change, the need to reduce our own emissions to stop climate change from happening in the first place, and also the need for that support to enable them to transition."

New Zealand's action on climate change had been "woefully inadequate" over the past 30 years, Shaw said.

"What that has left us with now is only a few years remaining to dramatically reduce the greenhouse gases that we put into the atmosphere. That's a function of the kind of dithering that's occurred for three decades; it's not a very comfortable position for us to be in but it doesn't mean that we aren't up to the challenge."

Shaw did not believe New Zealand was one of the countries Queen Elizabeth was referring to when she was recently overheard expressing irritation at those who "talk but don't do" with regard to climate change action.

"If you look at what we've done over the course of the last four years - you know, in addition to passing the Zero Carbon Act unanimously and setting up the Climate Change Commission - we've also done things like introduced incentives for low-emission vehicles, we've ended offshore oil and gas exploration, we will be the first country in the world to put a price on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, and so on ... however, we are, as I have said, very late to get started and the effects of those policies are yet to be felt."

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