Christopher Luxon would have sent minister to COP26 climate conference in Glasgow

National's Christopher Luxon would have sent a minister to the COP26 conference in Glasgow had he been Prime Minister, saying it was important to have New Zealand at the table.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw travelled to Scotland in November for the annual meeting, entering critical discussions with representatives of other countries about the next steps in addressing the climate crisis.

But he came under fire in the months leading up to the meeting, with ACT in particular lambasting the minister for saying it was risky to have Parliament sit during alert level 4 while at the same time planning to travel to Glasgow.

ACT's David Seymour also suggested Shaw should not increase his emissions profile by flying across the world. Meanwhile, National's climate spokesperson Stuart Smith said he would not attend the conference as not to take up a spot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).

Smith no longer holds the climate change portfolio after Luxon's shadow-Cabinet shake-up on Monday, with the role now being in Scott Simpson's hands. The National leader said the party would take a page from the UK Conservatives on how to address climate change and be focused on the delivery of outcomes rather than just on "words and emotion".

On Tuesday, he was asked if criticism of Shaw going to COP26 was valid.

"I am not going to get into that. All I was just highlighting to you was some pretty broad themes and some direction of travel that we want to explore more in the coming year."

Pushed on the point of whether he would have sent a minister to Glasgow had he been Prime Minister, Luxon was clear. 

"Yes, I think it was important that New Zealand had some representation there, personally."

During his press conference on Monday, Luxon said his view was that the Labour Government "makes declarations, but doesn't actually deliver".

"Emissions have gone up, we have more coal than we have ever had, we have lower levels of renewable electricity," he said. "You can talk about a bumper sticker and a declaration, but you're not actually following it through."

"My observation of the Green Party is that it has become less focused on the environment in recent years than it historically was." 

Luxon said he wants National to get into the "management and the plan delivery of climate change" and believes Simpson will "deliver the clean, clear thinking that is needed to navigate climate change".

Luxon unveiled his new team line-up on Monday.
Luxon unveiled his new team line-up on Monday. Photo credit: Newshub.

Prior to his trip, Shaw told The AM Show that criticism of travel hadn't been levelled at Trade Minister Damien O'Connor who has made two trips to Europe this year. He questioned whether that meant people were saying "making money is more important than a breathable atmosphere".

He also acknowledged issues with MIQ, but said if New Zealand wanted to participate in international diplomacy during the pandemic, ministers and officials would need to travel. Newshub revealed last week that Shaw ended up participating in the home-isolation pilot anyway.

Shaw had also been adamant that attending COP26 via Zoom wasn't an option.  

"We can't do it by Zoom. That was made abundantly clear over a year ago. When I talked to MFAT officials I said, 'Is this an option?' and they said, 'No, it isn't'. The United Kingdom has been abundantly clear that this will be an in-person event. 

"If I'd been given the option, I would rather that that was available to us - and it isn't."

Following the conference in November, the minister said he believed New Zealand could lead the world the climate action space.

"Our Government is already making some strides on many of the key issues agreed at COP. We have strengthened our global emission reduction target, committed to phasing out coal, and supported a just transition in the parts of the country most affected by action on climate change.

"The new emissions reduction target the Prime Minister and I announced on the eve of COP26 will ensure the climate pollution New Zealand is responsible for in 2030 will be half what it is today. This brings us closer into line with what the science says is required to limit warming to 1.5 degrees."