The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Timid climate change target will have long-term costs

Event date: 
16 Jul 2015

New Zealand’s timid climate change target will prove costly in the long term, says Catholic social justice agency Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.

Caritas Director Julianne Hickey says New Zealand’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by only 11 per cent on 1990 levels is far behind the targets being set by Europe, Canada and the United States.

“This is neither fair nor ambitious,” says Mrs Hickey.

With the recent release of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ the Catholic Church has formally recognised climate change as one of the most urgent moral and ethical issues facing this generation.

“We have only a very small window of opportunity to make significant changes; otherwise, change is going to be forced on us,” says Mrs Hickey.  

“Already vulnerable Pacific communities are living with early impacts of climate change.  In the long term it is the poorest communities and future generations who will have to bear the costs of adapting to the environmental devastation that climate change will bring.

 “We recently hosted Ursula Rakova from the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea, whose people have been forced by rising seas to move to the mainland – and have seen nothing of climate change adaptation funds that the world community is supposed to make available.”

In a recent submission on the New Zealand government’s climate change target, Caritas urged the New Zealand government to be a bold and ambitious thought leader, rather than a cautious and timid follower.

“Since our submission, Pope Francis has also urged the international community to take significant action,” says Mrs Hickey.

An international conference held last week in the Vatican on the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’ included a range of non-government and government players anticipating that the language of the upcoming Paris climate change negotiations will be transformed by the Pope’s intervention.

Mrs Hickey said the New Zealand government was already seen by global church networks as one of the more conservative contributors to international climate change talks, and this timid goal will further reinforce that impression.  

“New Zealand’s reputation as a clean, green country will once again be seriously affected” says Mrs Hickey.

“Coming from the Pacific where the impacts of climate change are already making themselves felt on the most vulnerable communities, there is an opportunity and an expectation that New Zealand will show leadership.  

“This is a very disappointing outcome to a consultation process in which the majority of submitters showed we would like to invest now to do whatever we can to reduce climate change, rather than simply allowing the costs of adapting to climate change to fall on future generations.”

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust