Launch of Aotearoa New Zealand’s International Climate Finance Strategy

Foreign Affairs

Ancient Tonga Cultural Centre

Tamakautonga Road,

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Introduction and acknowledgements

Tuia ki runga, tuia ki raro,

Tuia ki roto, tuia ki waho,

Tuia te here tangata,

Ka rongo te pō, ka rongo te Ao!

Tuturu o whiti,

Whakamaua kia tina,

Tina!

Haumi e, hui e,

Taiki e!

Tena koutou katoa, malo ‘etau lava, warm Pacific greetings.

It is an honour to be in the beautiful Kingdom of Tonga, today — welcomed by the warmth and hospitality of the Tongan people, and the abundance of generosity that is truly Pacific.

Reconnection

As much as we acknowledge the people here today, I also want to acknowledge the whenua, the fonua, your land.

Back home in Aotearoa, we recognise fonua pe tangata, tangata pe fonua: the land is the people, the people are the land.

Land is our tūrangawaewae, our place where we belong.

The re-opening of your borders on 1 August has allowed me to set foot here, to reconnect in-person, on your soil and as your guest, for the first time as Foreign Minister.

Your leaders have travelled, representatives of Aotearoa New Zealand have travelled, and we have talked in person in forums in Africa, in Auckland, on Zoom, and elsewhere.

But the ability to stand on your land, after the devastation of a global pandemic, the destruction of a volcanic eruption and tsunami, to bear witness to your experiences and perspective, offer us a significant opportunity.

Local and global

Just 400 metres north from this venue lies Vuna Road, home to the beating heart of Nuku’ alofa’s commerce, trade and governance. It is a vibrant and historically significant site of social and cultural life.

Cross the road, make your way down the beach to the shoreline, and there lies Te Moana nui a Kiwa, the vast Pacific Ocean, our shared Blue Pacific Continent.

The shockwave from the 15 January eruption of Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai  was felt here, and on distant shorelines of this ocean continent.

It travelled at astonishing speeds to Japan, to Peru, to Tūtūkaka in the north of Aotearoa, and even to the edges of space, affecting our shared atmosphere and climate.

The gravity waves reverberated around the planet, and are still astounding scientists all over the world, whether they are studying the depths of the ocean floor or the heights of our atmosphere.

The eruption and tsunami remind us of the fragility and the power of this shoreline; of Tonga’s atolls; of our region; of this Blue Pacific Continent; this planet.

Our awareness of our common vulnerability is more profound, as we seek to adapt and mitigate to the existential threat of climate change here in the Pacific.

There is nothing more challenging to our region’s security than climate change, and I want to use this speech to map out some new details of our approach to climate resilience.

But first, some context.

Scene setting – Pacific resilience

Almost a year ago, I set out the values and principles I wanted to see guide Aotearoa in our work in, and with, our Pacific whanau: the Pacific Resilience Approach.

As a country both in and of the Blue Pacific Continent, our connections are deep and long-standing; woven together through whakapapa, language, shared history, culture, interests… and bound by our great ocean, Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, for which we share in kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, of our natural environment.

Our goal is for a region where Aotearoa New Zealand operates as a true partner, collaborating with others in shared stewardship, and supporting peace, prosperity and resilience.

The Pacific Resilience Approach is underpinned by our commitment to the relationships that enable us to work together, face challenges together, and engage kanohi ki te kanohi: building genuine partnerships and enduring links… and is now embedded in both what we do and how we engage.

This is a values-based approach, recognising that resilience is a holistic concept, where issues and priorities shift — and ebb and flow — in response to what is happening in the world around us.

The challenges we face are increasingly complex and interconnected.

It is a set of challenges that has affected every aspect of our resilience:

  • COVID-19, a global pandemic;
  • Conflict – a war in Ukraine and the global economic consequences; and
  • Climate change – extreme weather events causing floods, droughts, soaring temperatures, fires, tidal surges.

As the Pacific continues to respond to and emerge from these waves of disruption, I am proud that Aotearoa New Zealand has stood alongside our whanau — here in Tonga and across the region — in facing these challenges together… this is where we see the value and strength of our partnerships, in action.

As Pacific partners we have found ways to work together on our shared resilience in these difficult times.

The Resilience Approach in action over the past year has seen us:

  • Provide vaccines and other health support, demonstrating the principle of Tatou, Tatou — All of us together.

We worked with Pacific governments (and other partners such as COVAX and Australia) to support achievement of world-leading COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Through the Polynesian Health Corridors programme, Aotearoa New Zealand directly delivered over 350,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Tokelau, Niue and Fiji.

We also trained and offered professional development support to over 1,000 health care workers in these countries.

This support contributed to the safe administration of vaccines across all eligible population groups, and helped guard against more serious health impacts once the virus arrived.

  • Deliver NZ$162 million in emergency budget finance, reflecting the principle of Arongia ki Rangiatea — Focus towards excellence.

This funding has enabled Pacific governments to lead their own responses, in line with their own objectives and interests.

Critical budget needs of Pacific governments were prioritised, such as strengthening health systems, maintaining law and order, providing basic public services, and funding social protection mechanisms to ensure no one was left behind.

  • Consider the resilience of the Pacific in our own border settings, putting the principle of Turou Hawaiki — Navigating together into action.

In October 2021, we negotiated and then opened one-way quarantine free travel with Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, enabling the entry of more than 11,000 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers into Aotearoa New Zealand.

Then, as we reopened our borders in 2022, we ensured access from the Pacific was prioritised, bringing forward timeframes for reopening visitor visa access, reflecting the importance we place on our cultural, economic and social connections across the region.

  • Respond when disaster struck, another example of Turou Hawaiki — Navigating together.

Following the eruption in January, our package of assistance was aligned to Tonga’s priorities and coordinated with other development partners.

We deployed military assets and NZ$3.3 million in humanitarian funding.

Going forward, recovery from the impacts of this event remains a focus for our engagement.

  • We worked together to address regional instability, recognising our deep and enduring connections in the principle of Tatai Hono.

Following the unrest in Honiara in late 2021, we contributed to a targeted response.

A regional security contingent from Australia, Fiji, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea was deployed quickly to assist the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force restore order.

We have agreed to extend New Zealand’s support into 2023.

Together, we responded to all of these challenges — and at the same time, we continued to honour our commitment to working alongside our partners in delivering tangible long-term impact and strengthened resilience, embodying the principle of Whāia te Taumata Ōhanga — Journey towards a circular economy:

  • through our support to Business Link Pacific over 800 businesses in eight Pacific countries received advice or finance to respond to the economic impacts of the pandemic
  • through our support to International Planned Parenthood Federation more than 700,000 sexual and reproductive health services were delivered in nine Pacific countries during 2021
  • in partnership with the Commonwealth of Learning and the University of the South Pacific’s Centre for Flexible Learning, more than 7,200 learners benefitted from enhanced learning through ICT and open education resources, which in in many cases meant learning could continue even when schools were closed 
  • and here, in Tonga, our shared ten-year trilateral police programme (delivered in partnership with Australia and Tonga) has contributed to safer and more secure Tongan communities, with a 14 percent overall reduction in crime.

Looking forward, we will continue to focus our Pacific programming on building long-term resilience with a high degree of Pacific ownership, and an emphasis on promoting peace and stability, and good governance, including women’s leadership and human development.

We will also begin our significant scale up in support for the climate priorities of Pacific countries, I’ll talk more about that soon.

What does this look like, regionally?

While much of our support has been delivered country to country, Aotearoa New Zealand is also committed to endeavours that are coordinated across the entire region. We are committed to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) as the pre-eminent regional organisation for Pacific leaders to discuss, build consensus and act on shared challenges.

Ultimately, a strong regional architecture helps amplify the voice of the Pacific and promotes resilience.

The Forum provides an important mechanism for us to work together to support, empower, and uphold our regional norms, institutions, and processes. To that end, Aotearoa New Zealand is a strong supporter of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent — which was announced by Pacific Leaders during the PIF meetings, in Fiji, last month — and its vision of a resilient Pacific of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity.

In line with this, we also work to encourage external partners to understand, respect and connect with these Pacific-led, regional frameworks — whether it is the United States, China, Japan, or Europe, our firm message is that engagement in the Pacific should take place in a manner that advances Pacific priorities, is consistent with established regional practices, is supportive of Pacific regional institutions, and has a high degree of Pacific ownership.

Climate resilience

Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa — the Blue Pacific Continent — now faces its greatest shared challenge yet: that of climate change.

We agree this is the number one priority for action moving forward.

The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Ocean notes:  “The Blue Pacific Continent continues to experience damaging impacts of climate change and requires timely access to scaled-up, effective and sustainable climate finance.”

Pacific countries have long called for development partners to take a holistic and comprehensive approach to addressing climate change, and our responses have often times reinforced a project-by-project approach rather than seizing the opportunity to build transformational partnerships.

In response, Aotearoa New Zealand has significantly stepped up its assistance to the region to slow the change and cushion its impacts.

Launch of the International Climate Finance Strategy

Against this backdrop, I am pleased that Tonga is the host nation for our launch today of Aotearoa New Zealand’s International Climate Finance Strategy, Tuia te Waka a Kiwa.

The strategy is central to shaping our investments to support the Pacific response to the climate crisis.

“Te Waka a Kiwa” signifies the aspirations we share to look after our people as we head into an uncertain future, while “Tuia” acknowledges the binding together of people and things

The Strategy’s Vision is that our climate finance supports “Developing countries and communities to build resilience in a world on a pathway to staying within 1.5˚” of pre-industrial temperatures.  

This Strategy is designed to guide our NZ$1.3 billion of climate finance investments between 2022 and 2025.

At least 50 percent of this commitment will be directed towards the Pacific, with a key focus on adaptation.

By more than quadrupling our previous climate finance commitment, we have an opportunity to act at scale for maximum climate impact.

The Strategy’s vision allows us to be innovative in seeking creative mitigation and adaptation initiatives, take managed risks, and invest for the long term — looking at projects to promote biodiversity, protect the oceans, and safeguard delicate ecosystems. 

It encourages us to build enduring partnerships with research institutions in the Pacific and beyond, supporting the transfer of knowledge, data, and indigenous practices and techniques.

It provides a framework to strengthen our climate finance influence and impact by working inclusively to ensure equity of benefits and transformative change.

This includes the advancement of human rights of indigenous people, women, those with disabilities, of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, children and youth, and other marginalised groups, through integration into our design work.

And, it empowers and enables the voices of these priority groups to act and inform inclusive decision-making and the design and delivery of our climate finance initiatives.

It ensures capability-strengthening approaches that are inclusive of those who will inherit the guardianship of our planet: our mokopuna, grandchildren and beyond.

The Strategy includes four key goals for our climate finance investments.

First, we want to invest to enhance resilience and adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

This might involve direct support for implementing National Adaptation Plans or supporting locally-led projects to promote community resilience to climate change and disasters.

We have already directed over NZ$310 million towards adaptation in the region over the last four years.

Over this period have invested in a wide range of programmes that work across the whole region, within countries and at local level.

We recognise the importance of local solutions, reflecting that many communities have been adapting to living with changes in their environments for decades.

In the Pacific context this is a locally-led solution. Viewed from beyond the Pacific this approach may well be characterised as an indigenous-led response.

We are committed to supporting indigenous-led climate projects and working with communities in ways that recognise their history, culture and expertise.  

For example, the Climate Resilient Islands programme, active in Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Fiji and here in Tonga.

This programme, implemented by Live & Learn Environmental Education, is grounded in the community, building on indigenous knowledge and natural systems, and linking into local decision-making structures, to identify the climate changes and solutions that are most important to the community.

This supports adaptation and resilience that grows up from the ground, literally.

Aotearoa New Zealand also recognises the limits of adaptation may have been reached in some places, and that some Pacific partners are experiencing loss and damage on a daily basis.

We want to explore ways we can support Pacific countries to avert, minimise and then address the losses and damages they are experiencing.

Second, we want to promote accelerated climate change mitigation.

In the Pacific this could be through directly funding the priorities listed in your Nationally Determined Contributions, catalysing investment in emissions-reducing technologies and practices, or supporting your transitions away from fossil fuels, for example.

One small but standout example is the leadership that Tokelau showed ten years ago becoming the world’s first ‘solar nation’.

Aotearoa New Zealand was glad to have supported that shift from diesel to renewable energy, and glad now to be working with Tokelau to expand and renew its energy systems, so Tokelau can remain a solar nation well into the future.

The third goal of our climate finance strategy is improved institutional capability and evidence-based decision-making.

We know that effective regional institutions are needed to promote ambitious and innovative action on climate change. And we acknowledge the very real capacity and capability constraints that exist in the Pacific.

Climate resilient decision-making in the Pacific will be enhanced by greater access to, and use of, education, science, indigenous knowledge and techniques, data and information.

We hope our climate finance investments can support growth in the number and capability of current and future climate change researchers, policy-makers and legislators.

We look forward to working with you to extend some of the significant regional initiatives that can make a real difference at all levels — such as building action and cooperation on water security, and improving integration of climate and weather data into country planning systems, to mention just a couple of areas the Pacific Community and the Pacific Regional Environment Programme are leading.  

We’ve also heard clearly Pacific government views about capacity constraints and the high hurdles for accessing climate finance.

We will work with you to build capacity and reduce these barriers, building on some of the work already underway through SPREP and SPC.

The fourth and final goal is around leveraging our investments to achieve greater climate impact.

We want to crowd in the finance of others, including the private sector, tap into private sector climate technologies and expertise, and collaborate with other donors, including the multilateral banks, to scale up our contributions.

In this way, our NZ$1.3 billion investment can be a positive force multiplier, bringing other major players into the region.

Underpinning the Strategy is the importance of taking a partner-led approach to discussing potential climate finance investments.

The strategy has benefited substantially from extensive consultation over the past eight months, including with Pacific governments, members of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific, Non-Governmental Organisations, and Pasifika community and youth leaders across Aotearoa New Zealand.

We have heard clearly Pacific government priorities, and look forward to further discussions with you around how Aotearoa New Zealand can support delivery of your mitigation, adaptation and capability priorities.

We will investigate innovative mechanisms for supporting Pacific governments to address their climate priorities, including through direct support for implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions, National Adaptation Plans and similar planning documents.

In this vein, I note that Tonga has demonstrated regional leadership in developing your comprehensive climate change regulatory framework, including efforts to mainstream climate resilience across government policy.

This regulatory framework, integrating national climate change, disaster risk management and resilience policy, and initiatives including the Long Term Low Emissions Development Strategy and Climate Change Fund, show the importance and value of tackling these perennial challenges with a wisdom that balances immediate needs with long-term vision.

In finalising the strategy, I would like to thank all of those who contributed their time and perspectives — my officials and I are very grateful for your insights. 

I am encouraged to see the principles of the Pacific Resilience Approach embodied in the strategy, as well as the core values we have collectively embraced in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.

I look forward to seeing our climate finance investments develop in partnership both with Tonga and the region and continuing our discussions on how we can work together to address our collective priorities.

And I’m confident that together we will shape climate finance investments in a way that promotes resilience across the region, as we face further challenges that are almost certainly just over our horizon.

I was pleased to share details with Prime Minister Hon Hu’akavameiliku earlier about Aotearoa New Zealand’s new contribution of NZ$8 million to Tonga’s Climate Change Fund, as part of our scaled-up climate finance commitment to the Pacific.

This will be directed to Tonga’s own priorities, in line with the partnership principles of our Pacific Resilience approach.

We anticipate it could include initiatives such as projects to strengthen the resilience of public infrastructure, enhance coastal protections, reduce reliance on fossil fuels for energy and transport, and develop sustainable agriculture and protection for biodiversity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to end with a whakatuaki, or Māori proverb, that speaks to the significance of looking at resilience overall, and with and through an intergenerational lens… 

“Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitu te whenua

As man disappears from sight, the land remains”

We are standing shoulder to shoulder: tatou, tatou — all of us together.