New Zealand and the Climate Crisis in the Pacific

New Zealand and the Climate Crisis in the Pacific
Roxy Neset
Staff Reporter

In early December, New Zealand declared that climate change has reached an emergency state. Although this declaration is mainly symbolic, it represents the daunting problem that climate change presents to island countries in the Pacific. New Zealand joins 33 other countries striving to create solutions for climate change.

For many of us in the United States, climate change is something we hear about but remains intangible. This is starkly contrasted by the situation in the Pacific Ocean. According to NASA, the Global sea level rose about 8 inches in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and accelerating slightly every year. Many islands in the Pacific have seen a loss of coast such as the island country Tuvalu, where 11,000 residents will have to find a new home in the next 50 years due to rising sea levels.

Sea Level Change Graphed by The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

In New Zealand, efforts to slow the effects of global warming are starting to gain momentum. The government has planned to become carbon neutral by 2025 and has also established a climate change commission purposed with bringing the country to zero emissions by 2050. These tasks set the bar high for New Zealand with good reason. As nearby island countries sink or experience extreme natural disasters, New Zealand has stepped up to lead the way in carbon emission reform.

The Ministry for the Environment in New Zealand says the nationally determined contribution is “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030”. This declaration came with New Zealand’s ratification of the Paris Agreement in 2016. The Paris Agreement is an agreement on climate change that holds all countries accountable for taking action to slow climate change. Participation in the Paris agreement is extremely high, and poor and rich countries alike have pledged to make stopping climate change a priority.

The state of the Paris Agreement, Statista

Countries in the Pacific have realized that working together may be the only way to overcome the threat posed by climate change. David Noone, a climate scientist at the University of Auckland says, “There are voices across the Pacific, New Zealand being central to that, that speak loudly together. And we represent a group where climate is very strongly influencing ways of life, and where the survival of communities in the future is really threatened”. Noone and other scientists agree that action needs to be taken to slow climate change or disastrous changes will occur not only in the Pacific but in the rest of the world. The research done at the University of Auckland has played a leading role in New Zealand’s climate initiative and showed how much the Pacific will change if nothing is done.

New Zealand Coastline, Photographed by Luke Thurlby

New Zealand, carbon neutral by 2025. Japan, reduce emissions 26% below 2013 levels by 2030. Moldova, the poorest country in Europe with an average salary of just $4392 per year, has pledged to reduce emissions 70% below 1990 levels by 2030. For the most part, countries poor and rich from across the globe have dedicated their resources to stop a global problem. Climate change has given the world a chance to show cooperation for the sake of humankind, and people everywhere are becoming more climate-conscious as a result.