GDP argument frustrates Shaw

James Shaw
James Shaw
Countries putting GDP concerns ahead of the existential threat posed by climate change is frustrating New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister at crucial negotiations in Poland.

James Shaw is at the United Nations COP24 conference where 192 countries are attempting to agree on a rule book to put Paris Agreement commitments on addressing global warming into action by 2020.

But with less than 24 hours to go, Mr Shaw indicated there was still considerable work to do and still some fundamental differences between countries on the threat climate change posed.

"One of my big frustrations is that on one side you have countries that say they want a set of rules that are quite permissive and let them do things, because they are worried about the potential impact on gross domestic product, and then on the other hand you have a group of countries that are saying ‘this is an existential question for us and our very survival as a culture and a people on the face of this planet is at stake’," Mr Shaw said from the Polish city of Katowice yesterday.

"And it is pretty hard to swallow. We are worried about a couple of points of gross domestic product more than we are worried about your continued existence, and, of course, because of that fundamentally different world view it makes it very hard to resolve some of those issues because the levels of concern are so different."

For all that, Mr Shaw was confident the meeting would agree on a rule book, even if the conference had to run a little over time.

"Yes, I am very confident that we will have something. And I think, broadly speaking, we will be pretty happy with it."

The key was to negotiate a rule book that preserved environmental integrity and transparency, he said.

As part of a High Ambition Coalition, New Zealand is one of the countries at the conference pushing for deeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, faster, in an effort to limit warming to less than 1.5degC above pre-industrial levels.

"We in New Zealand basically want a result that unlocks action," Mr Shaw said.

Emissions currently have the planet on track for between 3degC and 3.5degC of warming, which Mr Shaw described as catastrophic.

An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report in October underlined the importance of limiting warming to 1.5degC, but the COP24 gathering failed to carry a motion welcoming that report as the conference opened.

- Tom McKinlay

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