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General Debate: NZ MP Kennedy Graham on UN Security Council & Climate Change

I rise to ask this House to take time out from the largely Skycity-focused debate today to focus on the most important issue that is actually facing humanity.

Last Friday the United Nations Security Council held an informal meeting on climate change. It is a significant event. Slowly but surely the Security Council is moving towards adopting climate change as a security issue for its agenda.

It first considered climate change in 2007, but China vetoed any statement back then. Germany reintroduced it in 2011. The council declared then that climate change was a risk multiplier and a potential threat to international peace and security.

The meeting last week was only an informal one, again at the insistence of China and Russia, but it is clear that climate change is being upgraded from a matter for the United Nations Environment Programme to research and the framework negotiations to mismanage to one of political and strategic concern for the security council.

The only real question is whether the council, with delegated authority from member States, can act formally in time to revert what the World Bank calls “catastrophic change for humankind”.

That is what we are in for on our current emission trends—from 3 degrees Celsius to 6. Given what we are witnessing around the planet already with 0.8 degrees Celsius, God help us with anything above 2.

Global emissions are meant to peak by 2016 to avoid exceeding 2 degrees Celsius. That is 3 years away, about the time our UN negotiations are meant to deliver a global treaty that will kick into force 5 years later and begin to have an effect 5 years after that.

So we are consciously planning for global disaster.

Let this House ask the Prime Minister a few questions arising from the Security Council debate. Does he agree with the British climate change envoy that “the impacts of a changing climate pose a significant and emerging threat to a country’s national security and prosperity,”?

Is he concerned by the advice from the German envoy that “rises in global temperature were likely to have catastrophic consequences … [and] humankind would venture into an uncertain future that is much hotter than every before in its history—so from a scientist’s perspective, climate change is a global risk multiplier.”?

Does he agree with Oxfam’s plea to the Security Council to deal with climate change because “the global food system was already under severe stress as a result of droughts across the US, Africa and Asia.”?

In light of the World Bank’s advice that quotes: “cities must take the lead in developing a low carbon infrastructure, in terms of transport, urban planning and managing water resources.”, will he instruct Gerry Brownlee to ensure that the rebuild of Christchurch becomes a model of sustainability for the international community, somewhat along the lines of a report I tabled in Parliament 18 months ago?

How does he reply to the UN Security-General , who said: “Scientists have long sounded the alarm.”? Top-ranking military commanders and security experts have now joined the chorus, yet the political class seems far behind. Too many leaders seem content to keep climate change at arm’s length and in a policy silo.”

Will he listen to the Marshall Islands Ambassador, who said: “Global warming threatens our very existence. Our roads are inundated every 14 days. We have to ration water three times a week. People have emergency kits for water. We can no longer use well water because it’s inundated with salt.”

If so, will he direct a policy review on how New Zealand can assist Pacific Island States, including introducing a special annual quota of climate refugees?

Finally, will he call in the ambassadors of Russia and China and ask them to explain their dubious insistence on making Friday’s Security Council meeting an informal one only?

By emaciating our own emissions trading scheme and renouncing any legal obligation to cut emissions in this decade New Zealand now rivals Canada for the worst climate change policy in the world. All other developed countries and many developing countries, including major emerging economies, have more visionary and effective policies. It is time New Zealand got its act together for the sake of our own national security and long-term survival.

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02/20/2013 – 13:00


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