National Statement on the Signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement

Saturday, April 23, 2016 - 09:50
Climate Change Issues

(Delivered Friday 22 April 2016, Eastern Standard Time, New York City)

Tihei mauri ora!

E ngā mana

E ngā reo

E ngā rangatira o ngā hau e wha

Tenā koutou, tenā koutou, tenā koutou katoa.

It’s a great honour to be here today, representing New Zealand at the Signing Ceremony of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

I stand here speaking on behalf of 4 and a half million New Zealanders, proud that we are joining with all of you and your citizens to make history.  

This Agreement gives all countries, developed and still developing, a common platform to change our impact on our world.  

It gives vulnerable countries support to adapt to the level of climate change that we cannot prevent.

Most of all, the Paris Agreement has changed the way the world thinks about climate change.

Because of our action, we have made it clear that we don’t think the problem is too big to tackle.

It’s not about developed or developing, big or small, rich or poor.

It’s a concerted and united effort to improve our world, to fully embrace that very human desire for progress.  

Today I’d like to acknowledge the dedication of all those who were instrumental in securing the Agreement – thank you.

It is a huge milestone. But we know this is not the end of the road.

There will be challenges on the way to implementation.

New Zealand is absolutely committed to reducing our emissions and to achieving the ambitious target we set before Paris.

And we intend to do this within the context of economic growth, which remains a top priority for our Government.

This agreement is the foundation of our efforts to keep growing in a way that is sustainable for our planet.

Because of the importance of agriculture in our country, we are particularly focused on finding practical solutions to reduce emissions in that sector in a way that doesn’t detrimentally affect our farmers, and as a consequence, our food supply.

All countries are concerned with ensuring food security and therefore understand this problem.

We also recognise the part we play in global efforts to end hunger and improve nutrition, as New Zealand exports 85 per cent of our agricultural products.

New agricultural mitigation technologies offer an opportunity to address this challenge.

New Zealand is a founding member and strong supporter of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases.

In December last year we announced an extra 20 million New Zealand Dollars in funding for New Zealand activities in support of the GRA, on top of our initial investment of $45 million.

Domestically, we spend $15 million each year on agricultural mitigation research, as part of our $1.5 billion annual investment in science.

The switch from fossil fuels to clean energy is a challenge too.

80 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity comes from renewable sources like geothermal and hydro, but we’re aiming for 90 per cent soon.

We’re supporting our Pacific neighbours to adopt clean energy, and since 2013 have committed over $100 million for solar energy projects across eight Pacific Island countries.

This support will continue; at COP21 our Prime Minister announced that New Zealand would provide up to $200 million for climate-related support over the next four years, with renewable energy and the Pacific expected to continue to feature prominently.

Our Pacific cousins have been some of the strongest voices in calling for high ambition on climate change, and we will absolutely continue to support them.

New Zealand is also encouraging the transition to clean energy as a member of the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform.

The Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform Communique has already been signed by 40 countries and even more corporate leaders, and we’re hoping many more will endorse this year.

We are also currently working on ways of increasing the uptake of electric vehicles, as we know the importance of cutting our transport emissions.

A further challenge will be that it’s easier and cheaper for some countries to make emissions reductions than others.

We can’t change this fact, but we want to use it to inspire action, not prevent it.

That’s why New Zealand is a strong supporter of the role of markets in reducing climate change, and why we led the Ministerial Declaration on Carbon Markets in December last year.

At home I am leading a review of New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme, to ensure it is working as effectively as possible to reduce emissions.

It is clear that if this is going to seriously change behaviour, the price of carbon needs to be higher than it is now.

Along the way to implementation, we will be accountable to each other.

We will continue to build greater trust and confidence, and continue to support each other to develop new skills. 

New Zealand is making a contribution to get the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency off the ground, and we are contributing financially to other programmes building capacity for greenhouse gas inventory reporting in developing countries. 

We want to share our special knowledge of agricultural emissions, and we are running workshops for other countries in this area.

The Paris Agreement offers us a step change after years of negotiations.

However it requires that we put any disagreements on the text of the Agreement behind us, and commit wholeheartedly to the Agreement we are signing today.

The next part of the process should be driven by finding practical solutions to the questions that remain unanswered.

Ultimately, this occasion is one that gives me confidence the world is on the right path.

We have committed finding better ways of living on the planet, and better ways of living with one another.

Future generations can judge how the world addresses climate change not simply by reading historic records or analysing core samples, but through the actions we take as a result of this historic achievement.

There’s a lot of work still to be done before the Agreement will have an impact on climate change.

We will need to grapple with some tricky questions, come up with creative solutions, and trust that we are all working towards the same goal.

Looking around today, it’s clear we are up for the challenge.

Fundamentally though, this agreement isn’t about us present here today.

It’s about our children and our grandchildren.

It’s about the certainty that our future can be so much better than our past.

I’m very proud that New Zealand is standing with all of you to make that commitment.

Thank you.