Prime Minister’s remarks at launch of Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability initiative

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Climate Change

Ko Ranginui ki runga,

Ranginui is the sky father above

Ko Papatuanuku ki raro

Papatuanuku is the earth mother below

Ko nga Atua tamariki katoa kei waenganui

Their many god children between

Na ratou e tiaki ana te oranga o te whenua

Together they ensure the land is cared for

Tihei mauri ora

Prime Ministers, Vice Minister, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to be here with my counterparts from  Fiji, Iceland and Norway, and the Vice Minister of Foreign Trade from Costa Rica, to jointly announce the launch of a first-of-its kind and forward-looking initiative, an ‘Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability’, or “ACCTS” – a truly apt acronym.

There is an urgent and critical need for increased global action if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

It is New Zealand’s view and the view of the countries that stand here together today, that trade policies, practices and rules have an important and substantive role to play, and now is the time to use them.

The case for using trade rules to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies is particularly compelling.

Globally, we are subsidising fossil fuel production and consumption to the tune of over $500 billion US dollars a year.

This is the height of policy incoherence on an issue where we can’t afford to carry on the mistakes of the past.

We must act. We must change.

And countries have committed to act: ten years ago the G20 countries stated their commitment to reform. APEC Leaders have similarly and regularly reaffirmed the same commitment.

And yet, subsidies to the fossil fuel industry over the past decade show no signs of reducing, let alone elimination. In fact in recent years they have grown.

The five of us believe it is now time to put the rhetoric aside and do something real, and something immediate.

The establishment of rules on this type of harmful subsidy spending establishes a framework to finally hold us to account.

Commitments on elimination show what can be done when countries understand the sense of crisis and urgency and demand to see tangible progress.

Just as trade rules are used in the WTO context to address industrial and agricultural subsidies, they have an important role to play here also.

While we will continue to make the case for multilateral action, the five of us are ready to act.

That is real change. And that is what our populations expect us to deliver - to make our rhetoric real.

In addition to commitments to reform and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, the five of us will also:

  • Eliminate tariffs on environmental goods and make new binding commitments on  environmental services; and
  • Develop best-practice guidance to assist the development of guidelines for voluntary eco-labelling programmes.

The elimination of tariffs on environmental goods and new commitments on environmental services will mean these products will become cheaper for consumers and producers in each of our countries – accelerating access and uptake, and thus helping to improve the environment.

The ACCTS initiative calls on us to envisage what modern trade rules equipped to support the climate change challenge could look like.

Our vision is an enforceable trade agreement of treaty status. One that is transparent, supportive of multilateral rules, open to all who can meet the required standard and that demonstrates in a substantive manner how trade measures can support and drive climate and environmental objectives.

Our hope is that these kinds of initiatives, beginning first with a small group of countries, and then with an expanding membership, will create the momentum to eventually lead to multilateral solutions – our shared overarching goal.

The issues this initiative will tackle are not easy and it will require real changes by each of us.

We have started, and we now ask other countries and governments to do the same.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou kātoa