New Zealand is not speaking at an international climate leaders summit this weekend, however it is watching from the sidelines.
The Climate Ambition Summit 2020 is being held on the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The United Nations, United Kingdom and France are co-hosting the summit, which has also been dubbed the “Sprint to Glasgow”.
The UK Government was due to host the annual UN climate summit (known as the Conference of the Parties or COP) in Scotland this year, but that was pushed back to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The online December summit is instead a place-holder, which will kick off at 9am Eastern Time (3am NZT), and can be watched on demand.
According to the UN, the aim of the event is to rally momentum and call for greater climate action and ambition. Governments are being invited to present more ambitious and high-quality climate plans, as well as Covid-19 recovery plans, new finance commitments and measures to limit global warming to 1.5C.
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The summit’s programme includes a long list of speakers from all over the world including many world leaders such as Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama, German’s Angela Merkel and China’s Xi Jinping, as well as international business leaders and organisations.
But New Zealand isn’t on the list, and neither is Australia.
There’s been some criticism and questions raised around why New Zealand isn’t speaking, especially considering our stance on climate change action which saw the Government declare a climate emergency last week.
A Government spokesperson says New Zealand was invited to express an interest in a speaking slot. However, the event was happening too soon after the establishment of the new Government and it was not in a position to have any appropriate policy announcements ready to launch at the event.
“For example, the review of our Nationally Determined Contribution, emissions budgets, and long term emission reduction and adaptation plans are subject to domestic processes running beyond the Sprint to Glasgow event,” the spokesperson said.
Officials from New Zealand would be engaging in the event, however New Zealand won’t be speaking, the spokesperson said.
A different Government spokesperson added that the summit organisers required new announcements to be made in order to get speaking slots.
“New Zealand’s preference is to make our major new announcements in New Zealand first, as we did recently for our announcement on a carbon neutral public service. We have shared this preference with the organisers.”
Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said in a statement that the Government had put New Zealand at the forefront of climate action over the past three years, and as the declaration of a climate emergency shows, “we have every intention of staying there”.
“It is likely that many of the commitments other countries will make at the Sprint to Glasgow event will be similar to what this Government has already committed to, such as a target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” he said.
“Having already made these commitments, we very much look forward to hearing what other countries will be bringing to the table.”
On Wednesday, the Intergenerational Climate Ambassadors group met Shaw at the Beehive, which was the last day Parliament was sitting for the year.
The group of climate activists, who are aged between 13 and 73, warned that unlike MPs, the greenhouse gas heating our atmosphere won’t take a vacation this summer.
Climate activists tell us about the green Government policy they most want to see in 2021.