New Zealand has joined a small club of countries pledging money for the damage caused to poorer countries by climate change.

Read this story in Te Reo Maori and English here. / Pānuitia tēnei i te reo Māori me te reo Pākehā ki konei.

The government’s $20 million climate payment – from the $1.3 billion relief fund announced last year – could help build trust with our Pacific neighbors, but also irritate some major trading partners.

The sum will go to developing countries that have contributed little to the emissions problem, but are already feeling the effects of extreme weather around the world 1.1°C warmer. For example, while Fiji only contributes to 0.006% of global carbon emissions, rising tides and supercharged storms have battered its homes and farms.

Vulnerable countries argue that the developed world, with its historically large contribution of greenhouse gases, is responsible for the damage to their communities and economies.

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By making a payment, New Zealand has supported these countries – unlike the EU and the US, which are wary of any move that even suggests financial compensation.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the $20 million payment on Wednesday. The funding “strongly signals our support for Pacific priorities,” she said in a statement.

Pacific leaders explained to him how climate change is affecting people and ecosystems.

“It threatens the very basis of their lives,” she said. “Loss and damage affects homes, crops and fisheries, but it also affects cultures, languages, people’s mental health and physical well-being.”

Ella Bates-Hermans

Extreme weather conditions lead to more difficult growing conditions, which can lead to food shortages and price hikes.

Funding is not complementary. It will be taken from the current climate aid pot, Mahuta said. The government announced last year that NZ$325 million would be provided each year until 2025, equivalent to US$190 million for the US$100 billion in climate funds that developed countries have pledged. to give each year.

The announcement comes at a good time, with the 197 countries that have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement now meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, at COP27. .

With global temperatures already 1.1C higher than pre-industrial times, significant damage from climate change is already underway.

Groups of vulnerable countries fought to have the issue of unavoidable climate loss and damage (often abbreviated as loss and damage) put on the official COP agenda for two weeks.

They succeeded, but with a compromise: the summit’s chairman and Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said that discussions on the subject would not imply liability or compensation.

The US and EU bloc don’t like the subject, worried talks could leave them on the hook for billions of dollars in reparations.

Mahuta did not name a country, but confirmed that “some…are concerned about what this means for liability and compensation”.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw – who will leave to attend the summit on Friday – said relatively wealthy countries like Aotearoa have a duty to support those most at risk.

He said Things he hoped that the United States and the EU would welcome this decision.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced $20 million for countries affected by climate change.  (File photo)


Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced $20 million for countries affected by climate change. (File photo)

Yet while the EU as a bloc has opposed talks involving financial reparations, individual European countries have taken a stand.

Scotland made the first token payment for loss and damage at last year’s summit, held in Glasgow. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon offered £2m (NZ$4m) last year – and has increased that to £5m (NZ$10m) this year. (Scotland is not an official member of the UN, being part of the UK.)

EU member Denmark followed with a pledge of NZ$23 million. With this announcement, New Zealand has become the second UN member to make a payment for loss and damage.

New Zealand are playing a leading role, Shaw said.

“The fact that it’s taken so long to get it on the agenda is quite distressing. It’s a stuck conversation… These costs are already happening.

However, one estimate has calculated that the global bill for unavoidable damage could exceed US$1 trillion (1.7 tonnes of New Zealand dollars) by 2050.

Shaw described the $20 million as “a pretty modest down payment.” But current estimates are premature, he said, since talks have just begun. These would determine the “quantum of what we are dealing with”, he added.

The $20 million could go into a central fund, to be distributed to countries at risk, Mahuta said. But the government favored “a wide range of funding arrangements” to distribute the money and wanted to hear from Pacific governments, she added.

Regarding the $20 million taken from existing climate aid, Shaw said the existence of the payment was more important than its source “at this point and where things stand.”

The Alliance of Small Island States – a diplomatic group representing 39 nations, including Fiji, Samoa and Tonga – has strongly supported the loss and damage negotiations. This decision should not be considered a “favor”, said its representative at the summit.

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