Climate Change Minister James Shaw who led the NZ delegation to COP27 reckons it’s crunch time for countries to step up and take urgent action at home on global warming.
Shaw tells the world at Sharm al-Sheik NZ will do everything it can to urgently cut climate pollution and build a safer, cleaner future.
He concedes global progress is “slow”, but says: “we still have a choice about the future we want to build. Every tenth of a degree of global warming prevented matters; every tonne of pollution we cut makes a difference; every decision we take counts”.
It’s a question on which there may be no firm answer in NZ until the general election next year, when the Green Party presents the case for faster action.
Meanwhile Shaw tells the world at Sharm al-Sheik NZ will do everything it can to urgently cut climate pollution and build a safer, cleaner future. He concedes global progress is “slow”, but says “we still have a choice about the future we want to build. Every tenth of a degree of global warming prevented matters; every tonne of pollution we cut makes a difference; every decision we take counts”.
There Shaw is talking as if it is a race that NZ must win: the fact is until China, the US, Britain, Germany, France and the rest of the big emitters take action on fossil fuels, the damaging rise in carbon emissions won’t be halted.
Shaw says in the 12 months since the last COP, the NZ Government has shown “real leadership”, including putting in place NZ’s first ever plan to cut climate pollution in a way that makes life better for everyone, protects nature, and improves communities.
Those are impressive claims, but does it make the kind of difference to global warming that would come if China, for example, halted expansion of coal-fired electricity generation?
Still, let’s give Shaw credit for speaking up at COP27, as an advocate for urgent action on the international stage.
“At COP27, we once again stood alongside our Pacific neighbours and pushed for greater ambition on emission cuts; a faster phase out of fossil fuels; joined-up action to cut climate pollution and protect nature; and more support to help countries adapt to, and cover the losses that will result from, a warmer world.
“We are not satisfied that there’s been sufficient progress across most of these issues. However, countries do remain committed to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees – and that matters for future talks. Countries also remain committed to phasing down coal, which, again, is a foundation to build from”.
Shaw did find one bright spot at COP27. That was the agreement countries reached to establish new funding mechanisms to cover loss and damage in the hardest hit countries.
Negotiators agreed to create the “loss and damage” funding pot, which would collect cash from wealthy nations and big emitters and distribute it to communities hit by extreme weather and sea level rise. This was one of the summit’s most contentious issues.
The EU offered its support for the fund in exchange for tougher commitments to phase out (or at least phase down) fossil fuels. US and Canada negotiators reportedly came around to the idea.
But the phase down concept didn’t make it into the official proposals. The 197 countries once again pledged to “accelerate efforts towards the phase down of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” – essentially, a repeat of the agreement at last year’s summit.
The failure to take collective action on fossil fuels comes at a time when oil companies are planning “a disastrous surge of new expansion over the next three years”, according to climate analysts.
Shaw says the NZ Government has already signalled its seriousness on loss and damage with a $20m contribution to support those countries most at-risk. “I hope other countries will also recognise the collective global failure to cut climate pollution fast enough and make meaningful contributions to a fund that, frankly, we’d prefer we didn’t need”.
Shaw came away from Sharm el-Sheik saying overall, this COP has been much like any other, in that some progress has been made but not at anything like the speed required.
“And so, attention must once again turn to the action countries must take to decarbonise their own economies,” he said.
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton