PM Jacinda Ardern commits $150 million to fight climate change in the Pacific

The Prime Minister is committing $150 million from New Zealand's $300 million global climate finance commitment to the Pacific. 

Jacinda Ardern made the announcement in Tuvalu, a remote group of atolls halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, which is hosting this year's Pacific Islands Forum. 

Ardern said $150 million has been ring-fenced "exclusively for the benefit of the Pacific" to help fund projects such as climate hazard mapping and risk planning. 

"Pacific people have made it clear they want to stay where they are and defend their homes and livelihoods against climate change, and we will support them in this."

The $150 million boost is part of the $300 million, over four years, global climate finance commitment Ardern announced in New York in September last year. 

That $300 million investment was made from New Zealand's Overseas Development Assistance, which was increased by nearly 30 percent, NZ$714 million, in Budget 2018 to support the Pacific Reset. 

"$150 million of that will go towards bilateral projects in the Pacific and the majority as a whole will go towards supporting climate action in the Pacific," Ardern said in Tuvalu. 

"A good example is Tokelau: we've been doing work on coastal hazards and the Marshall Islands we've been funding work there around some of the impacts on energy."

Where will the funding go?

Ardern said $5.6 million will go to Tuvalu-specific climate resilience projects, the first of which will be a water storage facility on the island of Vaitupu, along with renewable energy and drought modelling support.

It will also fund projects to get rid of invasive species that threaten food security. Ardern said this will boost the resilience of crops vulnerable to increasingly unpredictable weather driven by climate change. 

Ardern said she has been speaking to Pacific leaders and asking them their needs, and they have responded saying they don't have enough information around the impacts of climate change as it affects them directly. 

"A little bit of support there will help them make policy decisions," Ardern said. "Here is a pot of funding available that can be used to support the projects that might come out of that work."

The Prime Minister touched down in Tuvalu on Wednesday and already Australia and Fiji had been squaring up over Australia's climate change stance and reliance on coal.

PM Jacinda Ardern speaking to the media in Tuvalu.
PM Jacinda Ardern speaking to the media in Tuvalu. Photo credit: Newshub

"I appeal to Australia to do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change," Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said. 

Australia did not want a phasing out of coal to make it into the Pacific Island Forum's communique, the official statement that concludes the meeting.

Ardern said she would like to think New Zealand's legislation, such as the Zero Carbon Bill going through Parliament, shows its "aspiration is to keep warning below 1.5degC". 

"That is a strong message to the Pacific that we support them... That's the same approach I'll take here at the Pacific Islands Forum."

New Zealand is still granting coal exploration permits, however, as Newshub revealed in June. An exploration permit for coal was granted to BT Mining Ltd in September. 

Ardern said New Zealand needs to be "answerable for our own policies in these forums, in the same way every country around the table needs to be answerable". 

She added: "Leaders are sitting face-to-face talking about the issues that matter most to them and climate will be the dominant feature.

"But there will be other issues: the issue of nuclear waste is significant for the Marshall Islands."

Some NZ-supported climate projects underway

  • Solar generation plant in Nauru ($4m)
  • Electricity Roadmap to decarbonise the sector in the Marshall Islands ($1m)
  • Pacific Climate Change Centre in Samoa ($3.5m)
  • Pacific voice amplification to showcase climate action ($4m)
  • Climate hazard mapping and risk planning across the Pacific ($5m)
  • Increasing renewable energy generation in Niue (from 13 percent to 40 percent currently)