Questions to Ministers
Climate Change—Pacific Islands Forum
1. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues : Are New Zealand officials working to soften the climate change declaration to be adopted at the Pacific Islands Forum?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Acting Minister for Climate Change Issues): No. Our officials are working closely with their Pacific colleagues to get a strong declaration on climate change from the forum. A clear statement of ambition that recognises the particular circumstances in the Pacific will be an important contribution to the outcome in Paris in December.
James Shaw : Given that answer, will he support the call of Pacific Island leaders at the forum to hold global temperature increases to a level that would ensure their survival—yes or no?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Of course we all think climate change is an incredibly important issue. I think the member, though, is getting ahead of himself. The declaration is going to be discussed, and a consensus, we hope, arrived at tomorrow. I do not believe there is a settled position today. It is a matter of open dialogue by all the parties there to try to achieve consensus.
James Shaw : Will he support the completely reasonable resolution from small Island States to put an immediate moratorium on any new coalmines?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I think ultimately that is for different countries in terms of their energy mix, but be very clear: New Zealand is, as indeed the member should be, incredibly proud of the $100 million we are putting into Pacific Island nations to make them more renewable. There are some 20 renewable projects in Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, and a number of other Pacific Island countries where New Zealand is taking a leadership position on renewable energy.
James Shaw : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was specifically in relation to the resolution from small Island States to put in a moratorium on new coalmines, not about the amount of aid that we are—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Again, I need to refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 187/4. The member is, effectively, asking for a yes or no answer to the question that he has raised. The Minister is not required to give a yes or no answer.
James Shaw : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That may be true, but it was in relation to the resolution in relating to a request for no new coalmines, and I do not believe that the Minister addressed that question. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! As I listened to the question, I think it has been addressed. It is a marginal call, from my point of view. As a way forward I will on this occasion allow the member an additional supplementary question.
James Shaw : So what does he have to say to the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who has told us that: “We cannot negotiate this, no matter how much aid. We cannot be bought on this one because it’s about the future.”?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Well, of course, the Prime Minister is in Papua New Guinea. He will be respectfully listening to the various positions. As I have already said, I think this is a matter of an open dialogue to try to achieve consensus tomorrow in relation to a declaration on this very important issue—I think we all agree—of climate change.
James Shaw : And what is his response to Pacific Island leaders who are calling for New Zealand to be kicked out of the forum because our approach to climate change represents the single greatest threat to their territorial integrity and security?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Well, of course, as I say, I think we take climate change very seriously. We have got an ambitious target heading into Paris. I think that New Zealanders, including the members of this House, should be incredibly proud, actually, of the leadership role that we play in the Pacific when it comes to climate change, whether that is in terms of sharing experience and expertise in a range of areas, or whether it is spending and investing $100 million across Pacific Island countries in renewable energy that is literally transformative to small communities throughout, as I say, the Pacific.
James Shaw : How many of the 179,000 people living in Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Tuvalu will New Zealanders take in as refugees when sea level rise renders those countries uninhabitable?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I think that the member is referring to climate refugees. That is of course a possible future phenomenon, and hence one of real concern—I think we would all agree again—to Pacific Island nations and those people, each and every one of them whom the member talks about. We think that our response in New Zealand to climate change should continue to focus on mitigation and adaptation measures, so Pacific peoples can continue to live in their own countries. As I say, the leadership role that we have had in the Pacific on climate change is something that I think New Zealanders and the member should be proud of.
James Shaw : Is he happy, therefore, to go to Paris with an emissions reduction target that, if widely adopted by the rest of the international community, would eliminate entire countries in the South Pacific?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES : The member is entirely wrong. We have an ambitious new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below the 2005 levels by 2030. This is—and the member may not like it—a significant increase on our current unconditional target. We compare favourably with other countries: the same as Canada, a little better than the United States—27 percent on 2005 levels—a little better than Australia, and a little under the EU. I think that we can hold our heads up going to Paris with a high level of ambition.
James Shaw : Is he aware that climate scientists at the Climate Action Tracker group have placed New Zealand’s response as insufficient and inadequate, and we are in fact in the bottom category of countries in terms of the levels of ambition that we are taking to Paris?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Well, of course there will be a spectrum of views on these things, and there is a clear desire for high ambition from many people. But I will repeat what I have already said: we have got an ambitious target that we take to Paris, and we compare favourably with other countries.