Opening address to United Nations Climate Action Summit

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Climate Change

Earlier this year I visited the remote atolls of Tokelau in the South Pacific.

With a population of 1,500 people that is only accessible by boat, they have a story not often heard but a message that must be shared.

It’s a message underscored by their new coastal walls which are already toppling over from the assault by the sea.

By their seaside burial grounds, which are eroding and shifting.

And by the children who tell you they are worried about the future of their home.

It’s a message of urgency, one you yourself heard, Mr Secretary General, when you visited the Pacific recently.

If we are to overcome the extraordinary threat that climate change poses we all must start with an honest appraisal of our current situation.

Although New Zealand accounts only account for 0.17 percent of the global total our gross emissions have increased a little over 23 percent since 1990 and our net emissions by 65 percent.

But, also as with many here, things are starting to turn around.

Our gross emissions peaked in 2006. Over 80 percent of our electricity already comes from renewable hydro and wind.

And we have begun an ambitious agenda.

We have introduced to Parliament the Zero Carbon Bill, the purpose of which is to ensure New Zealand lives within the threshold of 1.5˚C of global warming necessary for the wellbeing of our Pacific neighbours.

We are strengthening our Emissions Trading Scheme to more effectively price climate pollution.

We aim to plant one billion trees by 2028 – 150 million are already in the ground.

We have stopped issuing any new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration.

In their place we are investing in green hydrogen, biofuels and the goal of 100% renewable electricity generation by 2035.

We’re making electric and cleaner cars more affordable.

We’re investing heavily in rail, trains, buses, walking and cycling infrastructure.

We’ve established a $100m Green Investment Fund to help shift private investment towards the zero-carbon economy of the future.

Our business community is stepping up with a Climate Leaders’ Coalition that together represents fully 60 percent of New Zealand’s gross emissions.

Our farming leaders have made their own commitment to cutting emissions from food production.

Over the next five years we will collaborate to build systems that every farmer will be able to use to measure, manage and reduce their own farm’s emissions. 

We are determined to show that we can be the most sustainable food producers in the world.

That’s why we will continue to lead international collaboration through the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouses Gases.

We are determined that New Zealand can and will play our part in the global effort. 

Mr Secretary General, the situation is stark.

It will not be easy.

But our generation – we – have it within our grasp, not just to prevent the worst, but to build the best possible world for the generations to come.