Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key as they leave the family photo at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014.
Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key as they leave the family photo at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. AP Photo - The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld

New Zealand takes up Obama's climate change challenge

PRIME Minister John Key says New Zealand will put a small amount into the Green Climate Fund and expects to set a 2020 target for carbon emission reductions early next year as climate change takes centre stage at the G20 following a ground breaking agreement between China and the US.

Mr Key also said New Zealand would contribute $3 million toward the Green Climate Fund after some of the major players at the G20 announced significant pledges.

They included US Barack Obama, who told an audience at Queensland University the United States would put in $3 billion - following on from a major agreement between China and the United States last week at Apec.

The two countries committed to climate change emissions reductions targets - and that has put climate change at the centre of the G20 talks, despite Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's attempt to keep it on the sidelines.

Mr Key said New Zealand would also put in about $3 million to the Green Climate Fund but he was sceptical about it and preferred to keep the country's efforts focused on the Pacific, in which it put in about $100 million for climate change related measures.

"It's a bit unproven, the Climate Fund, so we'll make small contribution."

Mr Key's apparent scepticism about the fund appears to align more closely with Australian PM Tony Abbott and Canada's Stephen Harper than Mr Obama and the European leaders who have also pledged significant amounts.

He had asked Climate Change Tim Groser to work on a proposal for what New Zealand's 2020 target should be and expected that to go to Cabinet in early 2015.

Mr Key said the agreement between China and the US to cut emissions augured well for a concrete outcome at the next UN Climate Conference in Paris next year after talks at Copenhagen resulted in "a spectacular failure."

"All the signs you are seeing indicate to us that when we get to Paris next year we are far more likely to see either a deal completed or one very close."

Mr Key said once two of the biggest emitters in China and the United States had agreed "then you're a long way toward getting everyone else to fall in line."

He also defended National's record on climate change saying it was only 0.14 per cent of emissions by comparison and was still one of the few countries to have adopted an emissions trading scheme.

"I don't think New Zealand needs to feel at all ashamed about what it's done in relation to climate change. What I've always believed is New Zealand is a very small player when it comes to climate change and ultimately you will never resolve what is a global issue unless large emitters are part of the solution."

Climate change was one of the issues the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was most vehement about in its 'briefing to the incoming minister' following the 2014 election.

Mfat gave a veiled warning to the Government that New Zealand's international reputation could be tarnished if it was perceived as being slack. The ministry said urgent, collective action was required to address increasing pressure on the oceans and resources, loss of biodiversity and water quality.

It warned those pressures would impact on New Zealand interests, including in Antarctica.

"Climate change is the most urgent and far-reaching threat we face and the current negotiations on climate change are the most important multilateral negotiation now underway. Positions taken by countries on climate change and their readiness to contribute to global solutions will increasingly define the way that others perceive them, politically and economically."


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