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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told former US Vice President Al Gore that New Zealand has a history of standing up on big issues, and climate change is the one at the moment.
Ardern was interviewed by Gore as part of his '24 Hours of Reality' programme to focus on climate change.
Ardern's interview is part of the hour from 5pm dedicated to looking at climate change and the Pacific Islands, called 'Pacific Islands: Rising Seas, Rising Movement.'
Greeting Ardern over the satellite link, former US Vice President Al Gore praised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, telling her he was watching the New Zealand election and "I was cheering for you even before you were elected.”
He had earlier described her as a "very powerful and inspiring new voice in the world community."
He said he thought it was amazing that she put climate change at the centre of her campaign.
Ardern responded by saying New Zealand's role on climate change was anchored in its identity. She pointed to New Zealand's role at the forefront of the anti-nuclear movement and women's suffrage.
“This feels like the next stage for New Zealand as a country when it comes to standing up on something that will affect us for generations to come.”
Ardern was interviewed in the hour dedicated to the Pacific Islands and Ardern said it was a "personal and national responsibility" for New Zealand to do its part, given the effects in the Pacific.
In the lead up to the interview, Gore ran through the weather events attributed to climate change and sea warming, including Cyclone Winston in Fiji, floods in the Solomon Islands.
He also addressed sea level rise from melting glaciers, saying it was happening much faster in the Pacific than other oceans.
He spoke of its impact on countries such as Kiribati, saying it had to budget to buy land in other countries to send its citizens to.
Gore also ran through efforts for mitigation, including greater use of renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels in the Pacific Islands.
Ardern told Gore New Zealand itself was seeing the impact in the melting of its glaciers and soil drying, as well as ocean acidity and the impact on seafood such as paua and oysters and other food sources.
She said 44,000 homes in New Zealand could be affected if sea levels kept rising. However, such impacts were already happening on the smaller Pacific islands such as Tokelau and Kiribati.
Asked about 'climate refugees,' Ardern said New Zealand was mindful of that. She said New Zealand already offered opportunities for Pacific Islanders to stay in New Zealand, such as through seasonal employment schemes.
“When it comes to the climate refugee situation, we've started having the discussion. We've started to have the discussion 'well perhaps there are ways to adapt what we already have to take into account that potential future issue.”
Gore described the mindset of New Zealand as “deeply rooted in conscience” and Ardern said that was the case.
She said although New Zealand's emissions were minute as a percentage of the global emissions, it did not reduce the responsibility for New Zealand.
“But for New Zealand there's probably something extra in this particular international debate. We pride ourselves on our environment. It's intrinsically linked to how we see ourselves and our view of New Zealand and its place in the world is very much anchored in our perception of the beautiful environment that we're so lucky to live amongst.”
She said the concept of kaitiakitanga [guardianship] ran deep in New Zealand, courtesy of Maori values.
“We have a responsibility to preserve what we have for future generations.”
Prior to the interview, Ardern said she would discuss the work New Zealand was doing toward facing the global challenge.
She said she wanted to reframe it from being a challenge to an opportunity for New Zealand – "to enhance our reputation as environmentalists, but also enhance our brand, which is good for exporters.".
SOURCE: NEWSTALK ZB/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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