Pacific Small Island Developing States Reception, 100 UN Plaza, New York

Excellences, colleagues, members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen, kia ora tatou katoa, warm Pacific greetings to one and all. 

Thank you for this opportunity to speak today. 

We know that climate change is the single biggest threat to the livelihoods and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific and there is an urgent, immediate, and unprecedented need for greater and more ambitions action.  And in my privileged position as Minister for Pacific Peoples, as I listen to my elders, the two, three, that have spoken earlier and as I get to engage with our Pacific leaders right across the Pacific region – we’re leading.

We’re leading by example, despite being a region which produces the fewest greenhouse gas emissions, despite the fact that 7 out of 15 climate affected nations sit within our Pacific region, despite all that, we are trying to encourage as much as possible the most powerful leaders who sit in this big place here to stand with us. 

And that is not an easy task, as I have looked around this place here, looked at the symbols of power, how do we convince these powerful nations to look to our part of the world and save us, defend our right to life, defend our right to live on our ancestral land? 

And I just want to acknowledge the passion, the power, and the heart by which our Pacific leaders are leading by example. 

And there are many, many hurdles to overcome, and there is so much support that is needed to help our Pacific region. So as we move into delivering our commitments under the Paris Agreement, many countries are looking at ways to achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions and to create long-term low emissions development strategies in a way that generates opportunities and minimises the negative impacts. 

NDC implementation can build on and strengthen wider development and social policy representing the opportunity to fundamentally shift a country’s development approach, including achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

We in New Zealand are committed to working alongside our Pacific family to manage our respective transitions and to achieve our respective long-term goals, whether it’s zero carbon, net zero emissions or climate or carbon neutrality. 

And while we all face challenges in ensuring our transitions to a zero carbon future we have also got to recognise the unique challenges faced by our Pacific Island Countries. 

Pacific Island Countries must have the adequate support to ensure an equitable transition.  This development support must take into account longer term social and economic dimensions such as gender, education, and training. 

Support for low emissions development strategies, technology transfer, capacity building, and supporting access to climate finance are important ways that we can support Pacific Island Countries’ shift to a low emissions development pathway. 

The work the regional Pacific NDC Hub is doing to help Pacific Island countries to enhance and implement their NDCs and drive sustainable and resilient development towards a low carbon development pathway is important in this regard. And New Zealand, we’re pleased to be supporting this initiative.  We do it because it’s the right thing to do for the sake of our peoples and for the sake of our children. 

It’s clear that climate change will cut across all sectors and therefore New Zealand is also pleased to be partnering with our Pacific families in ways such as customised climate information that will support decision-making in priority sectors such as aquaculture, tourism, health and infrastructure. 

Further climate hazard mapping and risk planning, providing infrastructure such as water tanks along with better tools and training to manage droughts, flood, and coastal inundation.  Projects to get rid of and manage invasive species that threaten food security, this will boost the resilience of key crops that are also vulnerable to increasingly unpredictable health—weather driven by climate change. 

So today’s event is an opportunity for Pacific SIDS to share their perspectives and how NDC targets can be successfully implemented and a resilient and just transition to low emissions, climate resilience futures.

In short I think the lessons learned from today’s event are important for us all.  Each country is at a different stage of climate change policy development and implementation. It’s clear that we do need to support each other through sharing our knowledge and our innovations in order to shift to a low emissions development pathway and meet the 1.5 degree goal under the Paris Agreement. 

I just want to finish off by simply saying to all our Pacific leaders, we have a word in Maori, it’s kia kaha.  Kia kaha simply means stay strong, stay the course. 

Thank you.