Speech at SPREP’s High Level Ministerial Talanoa Session: A Just Transition to low emissions climate resilient future, Apia, Samoa

Madame Chair – the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa. My fellow ministerial colleagues from across the Pacific region. SPREP and CROP officials present, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me underpin my comments with what’s been said in New Zealand, that the transition to a low emissions economy needs to happen on the scale of the industrial revolution, but at the speed of the digital revolution.

New Zealand supports the Paris Agreement and our government is now moving into delivering on our commitments under the Paris Agreement, we are as many countries are doing, looking at ways to achieve our Nationally Determined Contributions and creating long-term low emissions development strategies, in a way that generates opportunities and minimises negative impacts.

We, in New Zealand sees a just transition as an enabler for more ambitious climate action that supports sustainable development, in particular the Sustainable Development Goals. A just transition does not exacerbate disparities between countries and regions.

We are eager to play our part to demonstrate that a transition to a low-emissions economy can be done in a way that leaves no one behind, and that is fair to the affected groups. Now this process requires leadership, it requires persuasion, and it requires engagement with all sectors of our economy. It will require patience and determination for ambitious actions.

We have begun this transition to a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. New permits for offshore oil and gas exploration have been banned. A Just Transitions Unit has been established to actively partner with affected regions to help those regions realise a clean energy and low emissions future. These policies support the Zero Carbon Bill that is setting enduring architecture to drive our domestic economic transformation, and aligning with the objective of supporting a limit in global temperature increase to 1.5°C.

I and my ministerial colleagues are determined to include that 1.5 C degree goal in our just transition work. Also one of our five priorities in our first Wellbeing Budget announced earlier this year, is a specific focus on just transition under our work on Transforming our Economy. 

The Just Transition Summit we held in Taranaki in May, was an important opportunity for us to bring people together to have their say on what a just transition to a low emissions future looks like. It brought together civic leaders, business leaders, community leaders, trade unions and workers, innovators, and it brought together some of our Māori indigenous leaders to exchange lessons from the Pacific, New Zealand and the world on how to implement just transitions.

I want to acknowledge and thank you Madame Chair, as Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa (Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa) for your participation, alongside the Cook Islands Prime Minister, in attending and contributing at our Summit and emphasising the Pacific’s continued leadership and advocacy role for an urgent global response to climate change. Having you share your experiences with the rest of our people in New
Zealand has helped them understand why we in New Zealand need to undertake a just transition.

We in New Zealand are therefore committed to working alongside our Pacific neighbours in managing our respective transitions. This includes through sharing experiences, for example through the Knowledge Sharing Dialogue on Just Transition in the Pacific held in Apia last year, as well as taking a holistic approach to our development support that takes into account longer term social and economic dimensions, such as gender, education and training.

We all face common challenges in ensuring our transitions to a zero carbon future are sustainable and inclusive. Questions we have asked ourselves which will be useful for our discussions include the following examples:

  • What are the different pathways we each have to transform our economy to one that is more productive, sustainable and inclusive?
  • How do we partner with stakeholders such as local government, businesses, communities and workers to identify, create and support new opportunities, new skills and new investments that will emerge from transition?
  • How do we make sure the impacts of the transition are distributed across the economy and how do we make choices about how we manage these in an equitable and inclusive way?
  • How do we build the social licence necessary to be ambitious in our approaches to transforming our economies?

Pacific countries can lead the world in working together to undertake transitions that are sustainable and inclusive. With Members here today, it would be useful for all of us to discuss your top of mind issues regarding the long-term transition, what it means to you, your concerns, and how you wish to engage with the international conversation, including at the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit and at COP25.

I was fortunate to be with our leaders at the Pacific Island Forum meetings in Tuvalu last month, and I came away from that forum filled with a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency to act as one for our beloved Blue Pacific region.

For us in New Zealand we have started the conversation about just transition, but we know that we cannot do this alone. So I will leave you with a question: how can we bring together the knowledge and innovation that exists across the Pacific region to support each other to undertake a 21st century just transition revolution?

I am heartened by what I’ve heard today from HE Ambassador Peter Thompson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, especially those words he used – No Surrender, Hold the line, Fight for survival.

Those are the words that our young people of Pacific heritage in New Zealand will take to heart. Our young people continue to give me confidence, pressure and hope for all of us to take strong action in the battle against climate change. It is for them, the present and future generations of Pasifika peoples, peoples of the beautiful Blue Pacific continent that drives us all in what we do today.

Kia Kaha.