SIR GEOFFREY PALMER QC, FORRMER PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND
Climate change is a wickedly diffifificult problem.
It raises big public policy issues that demand action. The longer we put off the steps necessary to mitigate climate change the more difficult the adjustments will be.
The key issue revolves around reaching an international agreement to transform the economies of the world by reducing carbon emissions to achieve sustainability.
Time is running out – the tipping point is not much more than twenty years away. Right now greenhouse gas emissions are out of control. Since 1992, when the United Framework Convention on Climate Change was negotiated and agreed at Rio de Janeiro, the nations of the world have been attempting to reach agreement on how to combat climate change.
There have been 20 meetings over the years but very little has been achieved.
The Paris meeting is getting close to the “Last Chance Saloon.”
If the next twenty years yield so little as the past twenty years, catastrophic climate change will be beyond cure.
Paris must produce a legally binding agreement that obliges nations to get on a path to reduce their carbon emissions to avoid global warming beyond 2 degrees celsius. But we already know Paris will fail in that aim. We know it because the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions countries have offered going into Paris will not be enough.
To reach the goal will take further negotiations after Paris.
The good news is that there exists a pathway that will allow the battle to be won.
But determined action will be required to make deep cuts in emissions quickly.
New Zealand has made a low-ball offer for Paris. It will allow a large increase in our greenhouse gas emissions above 1990 levels.
No pathway has been announced by the Government as to how it will meet its own announced target of reducing its emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.
If every country acted as New Zealand has, the increase in temperature will exceed 3 or perhaps 4 degrees, resulting in catastrophic consequences.
The New Zealand Government needs an open, progressive and flexible negotiating stance. For too long New Zealand has been going backwards on the issue. Our domestic law is a mess. Our international stance makes us a laggard.