World Unlikely to Avert Climate Catastrophe, New Zealand Minister Says

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(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand Climate Change Minister James Shaw said the world is unlikely to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels, and the consequences will be “catastrophic.”

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“If the world continues on its current pathway it’s not achievable,” Shaw said in an interview Friday in Wellington. “The speed and the scale of the response is clearly inadequate.”

Even if all current climate promises are kept, the planet is on track to warm between 2.1C and 2.9C compared to pre-industrial times by the end of the century, according to a United Nations report published in October. Governments need to do more by 2030 if they want to reach the Paris Agreement goal, it said.

Shaw, a co-leader of the Green Party that supports Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government, said global greenhouse gas emissions are still going up and the window to turn things around is now “very, very narrow.”

“My view is that is not a reason to give up, it’s a reason to double down.”

Shaw was speaking in an interview with the other Greens co-leader, Marama Davidson. Both are ministers outside cabinet and have at times criticized the pace of the government’s efforts to address climate change and social inequality.

The Ardern government was among those not treating the climate threat with “a level of priority that is equal to the scale of the challenge,” Shaw said.

He and Davidson would lose their ministerial positions if Ardern fails to win the 2023 election, as current opinion polls predict.

Asked if Labour can win next year, Davidson said “yes absolutely, anything can happen.”

The Greens recently polled about 9%, up from a 7.9% share at the 2020 election. The party will keep putting up “bold ideas” on climate and ways to combat inequality in order to garner even more support, Davidson said. “There’s no mistake that more can be done and should be done.”

Climate change is an issue that can draw more support to the party ahead of the election because its impacts are now a “lived experience” for voters rather than something that will happen in the future, said Shaw.

“It’s pretty catastrophic now,” he said, citing the increased incidence of 1-in-100-year floods and multiple evacuations around the country this year.

Those extreme weather events are based on just 1.1C of warming which, because of the time-lag involved in climate change, was caused by emissions 40 years ago, Shaw said.

“That is a reason to double down and to make sure that we do everything we can to stop putting this pollution into the atmosphere in the first place and remove as much as we can of what’s already up there,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to connect those dots and say we need to go much faster on the solutions to climate change.”

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