Kennedy Graham’s speech on the Government Notice of Motion for the Pacific Parliamentary Forum

I rise to address the issue of perhaps greatest concern of all to humanity. The onset of climate change on current emission trends is likely to prove dangerous and, according to the World Bank, possibly cataclysmic in the course of the 21st century.

We have acknowledged the magnitude of future climate change for about 2 decades now. What has caught us unawares is its imminence. Climate change is here. Its effects are seen around us as we speak.

Climate change is now seen as a threat to national security, and, as the United Nations Security Council has acknowledged, a potential threat to international peace and security—a risk multiplier.

Nowhere is this more starkly portrayed than in the Pacific. For our visitors here in this gallery the risk is existential. The international community has, to put it simply, failed to solve climate change.

It might be argued that an international community of 193 sovereign States, each pursuing competitive national advantage, cannot solve a global problem. Not only do we have a global ecological crisis, we have a global governance crisis as well.

We approach climate like trade negotiations: punching above our weight, as we heard earlier. In the presence of our Pacific neighbours in this House today I apologise for the failure of New Zealand to act as a responsible global citizen in the matter of climate change.

Among developed countries New Zealand has the worst track record of net emissions over 20 years—an extraordinary rise of 83 percent from 1990-2011. We have tried but so far have failed.

Among developed counties we stand alone in not having entered a formal commitment to the UN for reductions by 2020. Our informal pledge of 10 to 20 percent conditional is derisory when the UN had identified 25 to 40 percent and the Alliance of Small Island States 45 percent.

New Zealand sees domestic reductions as an economic option involving the least cost abatement. Pacific countries see it as a moral imperative involving national survival.

Small island States have special needs of relocation. Kiribati has issued a clear appeal to relocate, as may be required, to Australia and New Zealand.

New Zealand has failed to respond adequately. In 2009 I asked a question of the Prime Minister in this House about his Government’s plans to receive environmental refugees from low-lying Pacific Island States.

The Prime Minister responded as follows:

“If one was to look at the Pacific one would see that the three countries that have the largest potential exposure to climate change are Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Tokelau. From New Zealand’s perspective it has a strong relationship with those countries. Although we will not be setting out exactly what support we would provide those countries if”—if—”a situation of climate change threatened their long-term survival, I think those countries could rely on the fact that New Zealand has a long history with them, would support them, and already has quite a number of residents from those countries calling New Zealand home. If that situation occurred”—he continued—”which, it is important to understand, is likely to be a long way in the future—it would be my expectation that future New Zealand Governments would look very sympathetically on that position.”

Translation: “I trust the need does not come up on my watch and I am sure Kiwis will prove to be decent if and when the time comes.”

That was 2009.

Today I got precisely the same response from the Prime Minister virtually word for word.

For our national leader nothing has changed in 4 years. This from a Prime Minister who has recently as 2005 has said that he had his suspicions about global warming 13 years after all Government had acknowledged it as a fact in the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change.

I say to the Pacific delegations here today: “Welcome to our shores. Feel free to urge our country to make it clear today, not in 2050 or even 2020, that we shall receive you as migrants displaced by climate change, and that we stand ready to discuss with you now—now—plans to that end.”

04/23/2013 – 09:18


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