New Zealand’s Foreign Minister is asking why countries would sign up to international agreements such as the Paris Accords and Boe Declaration if they never intended to uphold them.
In an exclusive BUZZ FM / Daily Post interview on Friday, Winston Peters pulled no punches when asked to contrast New Zealand’s Pacific Reset and Scott Morrison’s Pacific Step Up.
Citing the Boe Declaration as a key indication of the will of the Pacific, Mr Peters stated, “it was in accord with the present [New Zealand] government’s feeling with regard to climate change and the dramatic effect it’s having in the Pacific islands. We hear loud and clear the voice of… not panic… but utmost concern amongst Pacific islanders about what’s happening in their part of the world.”
All the way up to the Secretary General of the United Nations, he said, “we’ve made it very clear what the Pacific wants: a response befitting the problem we face.”
The Boe Declaration, signed in Nauru at the last Pacific Islands Forum, states that “climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific”.
Most Pacific nations have aligned their efforts to achieve a 1.5 degree cap on global temperature rise by the end of the Century. In a recent visit to Vanuatu and other Pacific nations, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres underlined the importance of this goal. It is one of the most pressing concerns facing humanity today, he told the media in Port Vila.
Mr Guterres made no mention of the Boe Declaration though, possibly for fear of being accused of partisanship during the Australia election, which took place while he was in Vanuatu.
Boe appears to be a dirty word to PM Scott Morrison, too. Alone of all Forum members, Australia has repeatedly foregone the opportunity to address the urgency and severity of the climate change threat.
During his recent visit to Honiara, the newly re-elected PM offered nothing but evasions. The ABC reported that, in a clear reference to the Declaration, he was “repeatedly asked what he believed was the greatest threat to the Pacific.”
“Mr Morrison responded by arguing that civil stability was the greatest security concern for Solomon Islands”.
Earlier this week, former Australian Defence Force commander Chris Barrie endorsed a report warning that human civilisation could end as early as 2050. The paper was co-authored by a former Australian coal executive and industry lobbyist.
None of this seems to have moved the Morrison government, and Winston Peters wants to know why.
Without actually saying the word Australia, Winston Peters expressed perplexity at their inaction. “What we want is to have an explanation of why they signed up [to the Paris Accord] and haven’t given it the flesh back home to back up their signature.”
“What were they signing up to?” he asked.
He said that New Zealand had updated its commitments and made necessary legislative changes just this month.
“I can’t speak for other countries, but I would say that sometimes, you shouldn’t try and defy gravity”.
In practical terms, though, what is New Zealand doing to move nations to reduce their impact? Mr Peters dodged the question at first.
“I’m very pleased that Secretary General Guterres came here, and came to Tuvalu as well. It’s a sign that he’s intent to go the distance, to go the extra mile.
“In Solomon Islands, six islands have disappeared of late. More will happen.”
Mr Peters refused to be tied to any particular tactic, however. “When you talk about these responses, they all in various circumstances will be appropriate. But what we can’t do is stand by and claim that it’s not happening. Because it is.”
Pressed to provide detail of concrete action from his government, Mr Peters told the Daily Post, “Let me tell you the first tangible action: We just increased our climate change response by 50%, by [NZ] $100 million. From $200 million to $300 million. Now we’d have got to $400 million if we could afford it, but we couldn’t. But 50% is pretty substantial in one year.”
Mr Peters led a 70-person delegation consisting of elected officials, senior bureaucrats and business leaders, as well as a sizeable Pasifika contingent. They returned to New Zealand on Saturday morning.