Global climate change agreement extended to Tokelau

  • Hon James Shaw
Climate Change

New Zealand has taken action to formally bring Tokelau into major global climate change agreements, Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced today.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement will apply to Tokelau from today.

Minister Shaw and Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio are attending the UN climate change conference in Germany, known as COP23.*

“I am pleased to announce that, as requested by the Government of Tokelau, New Zealand has submitted a formal declaration to the United Nations to extend the territorial application of both the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement to Tokelau.”

The declaration is likely to mean increased recognition for Tokelau’s climate mitigation work, as well as greater focus on its vulnerability to the effects of climate change, given New Zealand’s national reporting to the UNFCCC will now report on action taken by Tokelau.

It is also a mark of New Zealand’s recognition of the serious impact of climate change on small islands in the Pacific.

“This gives a formality to the clear stake Tokelau already has in the negotiations, and in securing its future as a climate-resilient Pacific island,” Mr Shaw says. 

“It also signals the commitment both countries have to addressing climate change at home and in the world.”

“This is a monumental achievement for us and I want to commend New Zealand for hearing our voices,” says Tokelau’s Climate Change Minister Kelihiano Kalolo.

Mr Kalolo says Tokelau is well positioned to do its part in addressing climate change, as detailed in Tokelau’s Living with Change (LivC)** climate change strategy.

Mr Shaw says New Zealand is serious about addressing climate change urgently. 

“We want to demonstrate our commitment to the Paris Agreement and the Pacific community.

“That means working at home and abroad to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

“We are ramping up our efforts at home, and will continue to support other countries’ efforts – particularly in the Pacific, where we have the relationships and the experience to make a difference.

“New Zealand and Pacific countries are aligned in pushing for a strong global response to climate change and I look forward to working with all Pacific countries in Bonn and beyond as we begin to bed in the rules for the Paris Agreement,” Mr Shaw says.


*   The 23rd Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or COP23, takes place from 6-17 November in Bonn, Germany.


What does this mean for New Zealand?

In technical terms, the main change to New Zealand’s obligations through this development is that New Zealand will now need to include information regarding Tokelau in its mandatory reporting under the UNFCCC and in any future reporting required under the Paris Agreement.

What does this mean for Tokelau?

Tokelau’s contribution to mitigation, as well as its vulnerability and adaptation to the impacts of climate change, would be highlighted through the reporting process.

Does this mean New Zealand’s NDC will include Tokelau now?

A decision on whether New Zealand’s Nationally Determined Contribution will include Tokelau has not been taken.  Any such decision would be taken in close consultation with Tokelau.

What is Tokelau’s relationship with New Zealand?

Tokelau is a dependent territory of New Zealand, a non-self-governing territory for the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and “part of New Zealand” under the Tokelau Act 1948. While substantially self-governing in practice, it does not have its own international legal personality. Any treaty making in respect of Tokelau is done by the New Zealand Government in consultation with the Government of Tokelau.