James Shaw, New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister, said that the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated that humans can be very effective at dealing with an immediate crisis. He says that we are “terribly bad” when it comes dealing with climate change, which is a slow-moving threat.
Shaw spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday, ahead of a crucial climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland on Oct. 31. Many environmentalists believe that the U.N. summit (also known as COP26) is the last chance for the world to avoid a climate disaster.
Shaw stated that he will announce at Glasgow a more ambitious goal for New Zealand’s emission reductions over the next decade. He hopes other countries will follow his lead.
He stated that it will be a priority to fulfill the promise of wealthy nations to contribute $100 billion annually to poorer countries to switch to cleaner energy.
Shaw stated that “the developed world has so far not delivered on that promise.”
He said that this has caused a loss of trust and a deterioration in the 2015 Paris Agreement’s consensus. He added that it also gives an excuse for authoritarian regimes and the disruption of international cooperation.
Shaw stated that the pandemic had helped some countries transition to cleaner energy. However, it had slowed progress in many developing countries, Shaw said, as they were struggling to deal with the huge financial and social effects of the pandemic.
Shaw stated that he doubts some of the environmental improvements made during the pandemic, such as driving less and working from home, will last.
Shaw stated that while these are possible, Shaw also believes human beings have a tendency to return to their type. “It feels like the world has fundamentally changed when you’re there in the middle of it,” Shaw said.
The government of New Zealand has pledged that the country will be carbon-neutral by 2050. It has been criticised for not being able to take action fast enough and talking too much about climate change. The nation’s 5 million inhabitants had reached an all-time high in greenhouse gas emissions just before the pandemic.
Shaw stated that lawmakers have passed many bills in recent years which will have a positive effect over time. These include a ban on offshore oil and gas exploration and stricter emissions standards for cars. A subsidy scheme for electric vehicle and the creation of a climate change committee.
“Is it enough?” It is not enough. Shaw stated that it will never be enough. We know that climate change is something we must continue fighting every year. This battle will be multi-generational over the next 30+ years. It will affect every sector of our economy and every aspect of society.
James Renwick, climate scientist, said that New Zealand and other countries need to be more urgent in their efforts to address climate change.
Renwick, a professor at Victoria University of Wellington, said that while countries have been discussing this issue for many decades, they have not seen any action. “We need to see emission reductions starting immediately in 2022 and then we must get them down very quickly in the next ten years.”
Nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture. This is a country that depends on food exports and has millions of cows releasing methane gas. Many environmentalists believe farmers are getting a free pass by lawmakers.
Shaw stated that farmers will be subjected to new emission rules by 2025 and that many are looking for innovative ways to lower their carbon footprint.
He stated that a key part of his visit to Glasgow will be to support colleagues from low-lying Pacific Islands who are already suffering severe climate effects due to more severe cyclones, rising sea levels, and other changes in the world.
He stated that the Cook Islands spends approximately 25% of its national budget to mitigate the effects of climate changes.
Shaw recognizes the irony of thousands of people flying from all over the globe to Glasgow to attend the talks.
Shaw stated, “Unfortunately it’s the only path that we can actually get there and actively participate.”
Renwick stated that this aspect did not bother him.
Renwick stated, “We all live within the world that has been created over the past century or more.” It’s the way it is. To stop doing this, you will need to burn some fossil fuel.