environment

Shaw: NZ’s not seeking easy way out

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw has updated journalists on New Zealand's progress at Katowice as talks enter the final three days. Eloise Gibson reports.

Keeping global warming to 1.5C is dominating climate talks at Katowice Poland, despite countries failing to “welcome” an IPCC report on the topic, New Zealand’s Minister for Climate Change James Shaw told journalists today.

Four countries, including the U.S. and Russia, objected to adopting the text of an IPCC report aimed at keeping warming within 1.5C. But the stark report has still “fundamentally shifted the conversation,” Shaw told journalists via teleconference from the COP24 summit.

“Every forum that I’m a part of, everyone is talking about 1.5C, nobody is talking about 2C,” Shaw said.

He rejected comments by Greenpeace that he’d been too quiet on the topic. “I’ve raised 1.5C at every single forum and in the side rooms and it was in our (national) statement too so I wouldn’t say…it’s correct to say we’ve been quiet.”

Another dominant theme at the talks was climate finance. Shaw said the money richer nations agreed to pay poorer ones to help them reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Since developed countries achieved their economic power partly by burning fossil fuels, this finance was promised to assist other countries to develop their economies without seriously worsening climate damage. But countries such as the United States under President Trump have backtracked.

“Developing countries have felt let down that the developed world hasn’t delivered on earlier promises, they are feeling anxious about being tied to a rulebook when don’t feel have ability to live up to it without assistance,” Shaw said.

Technical wrangling by diplomats over an agreed text concluded today and the negotiations will now be handled by government ministers for the final three days of the summit. Host country Poland has already started political discussions on climate finance, to try to avoid the issue becoming a roadblock, he said.

Shaw also responded to allegations that New Zealand has been using its large agricultural delegation to push for a lenient approach to farming emissions.

On the contrary, he said, his message to other countries on cutting short-lived gases such methane had been: “We are all going to have to (make cuts) at some point, so we may as well start thinking about it, and that can be a more hopeful conversation than perhaps we’ve had.”

Shaw said he’d mentioned New Zealand’s recent biological emissions report, which looked at ways to cut methane and nitrous oxide using technology, better farm management, and changes to land use. Every country would be different. For example, Australia has large potential to sequester carbon in its farm soils, whereas New Zealand doesn't.

Shaw said the reason for taking such a large farming delegation to Poland was not to argue for leniency, but to show the agricultural sector what other countries were doing and give them a chance to collaborate internationally.

“I understand where that anxiety comes from and that [leniency] is not the intent," he said.

"The reason we brought a significant agricultural delegation this time is that we want to raise it with other countries and start to talk about agricultural emissions and food production, which was a taboo subject [in other countries] up until now for the same reason it was a taboo subject in New Zealand for so long.”

“We have got to expose Kiwi farmers and businesses to what is going on in the rest of the world and if there are opportunities to share ideas that we can bring home,” Shaw said.

“One of the areas of resistance is the sense we are the only ones doing anything, and the idea that we are imposing costs on our sector that others aren’t. So bringing a large group relieves that anxiety [and shows] that there are things going on.”
“It’s not about getting concessions, in fact they are not part of negotiations, they are part of a side event that is more like a trade fair to connect with other business around the world.”

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