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Marc Daalder

NZ to exceed climate aid pledge by $200m

Fishermen head out for the day onto a lagoon in Samoa, where NZ aid is supporting climate change adaptation. Photo: MFAT

The 'mainstreaming' of climate-related aid means New Zealand now expects to spend millions more in foreign aid aimed at climate change mitigation and adaptation than it has committed to

We are on track to exceed our commitments for climate-related foreign aid by more than 60 percent for the four-year period between 2019 and 2022, spending as much as $210 million more than promised.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw highlighted the achievement in remarks to a virtual ministerial meeting on climate action convened by China, Canada and the European Union. As the meeting took place overnight in New Zealand, Shaw's statement was pre-recorded.

"Climate finance is a critical pillar of real and tangible climate change action across the world and I am pleased to confirm today that, despite the economic pressures brought about by the pandemic, New Zealand is on track to significantly exceed its current climate finance commitment," Shaw said.

"We will build on this and ahead of COP26 confirm our next climate finance commitment to support other countries to develop along a low emissions pathway, as well as to undertake the adaptation measures necessary to protect lives, livelihoods and infrastructure from unavoidable climate change impacts."

In December, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) told the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that it expected to spend $510.7 million on climate-related aid in the current aid budget period, between 2019 and 2022. That's a significant increase from the Government's 2018 commitment to supply $300 million in climate aid.

In 2019 alone, MFAT said, more than $110 million had been spent. More than two-thirds of the $510.7 million will go to the Pacific. Nearly 80 percent will be delivered directly by New Zealand to recipients and the remainder will come through multilateral programmes.

Shaw said the increase was a result of mainstreaming climate-related aid within the broader aid programme.

"Because we've been mainstreaming climate change into the aid programme overall, what it's looking like is we're going to significantly overshoot that," he told Newsroom.

"As our officials around the world are working on these projects and getting used to the idea of including mitigation and adaptation objectives, we're actually getting more out of it than we originally planned to. So that's good news."

The MFAT submission to the UNFCCC provided a similar explanation and said climate-related aid would play a larger role in aid over time.

"Our goal is that climate change is a consideration in all development assistance, and that all activities ensure action is taken proactively to build resilience into and reduce emissions. We expect the proportion of activities in the New Zealand Aid Programme that mainstream climate change considerations, to increase in coming years," officials wrote.

"New Zealand’s climate-related support has remained an important part of its growing aid budget over the past 10 years. While climate-related support fluctuates on an annual basis it is on an upward trajectory, from around NZ$44 million in 2016 to around $76 million in 2018 and $110 million in 2019. We consider increased climate-related support within the context of a growing [Official Development Assistance] budget 'new and additional' finance."

MFAT expected climate-related aid to peak at $174 million in 2021. However, a spokesperson for Shaw's office said the impacts of Covid-19 could mean New Zealand doesn't quite hit the $510.7 million figure - it will still significantly exceed the 2018 $300 million commitment.

Other leaders at the virtual summit also highlighted the importance of climate finance. United States climate envoy John Kerry said the US would "significantly increase climate finance levels over time, starting in our FY22 budget request. Financing for adaptation and resilience for vulnerable countries and communities will be an important part of this effort. We will also be working with the private sector to find ways to promote capital flows that are consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement."

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres called for a "breakthrough in climate finance".

"I ask the leaders of the G7 and main donors to mobilise the annual [US]$100 billion, promised more than a decade ago," he said.

"The share of grant finance needs to be at least doubled from current levels. This is a question of credibility and justice."

In his own remarks, Shaw also said he hoped to finalise the Emissions Reduction Plan mandated by the Zero Carbon Act in time for the major COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

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