Govt progress on climate change essential, risk assessment shows

The release of the National Climate Change Risk Assessment shows that the progress this Government has made to solve the climate crisis is essential to creating cleaner and safer communities across New Zealand.

"Because of this report, we can see clearer than ever that the action our Government is taking to reduce emissions is essential for making sure we pass on a safer planet to our children and grandchildren,” James Shaw said.

The Risk Assessment outlines for the first time the significant environmental, social and economic risks New Zealand faces as a consequence of climate change.

“Many of the risks we face can be traced back to the failure of previous governments to take any meaningful action to cut our emissions. However, whilst most New Zealanders already know that climate change is a problem, what we haven’t had until now is complete picture of exactly what the consequences of this previous inaction are,” James Shaw said.

The Risk Assessment is based on a high emissions, business-as-usual future, resulting in a projected 67cm sea level rise and 3 degrees Celsius temperature increase by 2090.

“Communities across New Zealand are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate, however that does not mean our goal of preserving a safe climate for the future is not within reach. Because it is. That’s why this Government has spent the last three years putting in place some of the world’s most ambitious climate change policies.

“Whether it’s passing zero carbon legislation, fixing the Emissions Trading Scheme, or supporting public institutions to switch to clean energy, we have been working to avoid worst impacts of climate change since the moment this Government formed. We know the window of opportunity is small and the task is large, but we have shown again and again that we are equal to the challenge ahead,” James Shaw said.

The risk assessment will now be used to develop a national adaptation plan over the next two years.

“Cutting our emissions is obviously a huge part of what we need to do to create clean, safe and healthy communities for ourselves, our loved ones and future generations. However, the climate is already changing and there will be some effects that we cannot avoid. So, in addition to driving the transition to a zero carbon New Zealand, this Government is also working to ensure our communities are made much more resilient to the unavoidable effects of global climate change,” James Shaw said.

About the Risk Assessment

The National Climate Change Risk Assessment identifies 43 risks that could have a major or extreme consequence to New Zealand.

Of these, there are 10 risks the reports says require urgent action in the next six years.

The 10 most significant risks identified are:

  • To coastal ecosystems due to sea level rise and extreme weather events
  • To indigenous ecosystems and species from the enhanced spread of invasive species
  • To social cohesion and community wellbeing from displacement
  • Of exacerbating existing social inequities and creating new ones due to unequal distribution of climate change impacts
  • To governments from economic costs associated with lost productivity, disaster relief expenditure and unfunded contingent liabilities.
  • To the financial system from instability due to extreme weather events and ongoing, gradual changes.
  • To portable water supplies, both availability and quality, due to changes in rainfall, temperatures, drought, extreme weather events and ongoing sea level rise.
  • To buildings due to extreme weather events, drought, increased fire weather and ongoing sea level rise.
  • Of maladaptation due to the application of practices, process and tools that do not account for uncertainty and change over long timeframes.
  • That climate change impacts will be exacerbated because current institutional arrangements are not fit for climate change adaptation.

The Government is required to respond with a National Adaptation Plan within two years of the publication of each climate change risk assessment.

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