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“The consideration of climate change needs to be a ‘must do’, not a ‘nice to have’, and we need to take every opportunity to succeed.”
This was the message relayed by Adrian Orr, Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in his keynote address on progressing climate change action by driving transformational change, delivered during the second day of the 2020 Pacific Ocean, Pacific Climate Change conference (2020POPCCC).
“Transformational change needs to be inspired through engaging both minds and hearts in individuals, institutions, and broad society. Each of these levels interweaves and builds on and supports each other.”
“Climate change transformation will involve developing and implementing renewable energy strategies, ‘greening’ the financial system, and managing economic and social adaptation,” Orr said.
Orr identified the need for individual transformation, institutional transformation, and societal transformation in order to manage climate risks in the region, and shared his own personal story of transformation, which began when his grandfather migrated to New Zealand in the 1930s from the island of Atiu in the southern Cook Islands.
“I have remained inspired by the notion of kaitiakitanga – or guardianship – from Polynesian culture. I know, however, that this notion is not common across all cultures,” said Orr.
“It is now critical that we use our guardian mindset more than ever. The average temperature has increased one degree over the past 100 years, the sea is rising, and extreme weather events such as storms are increasing in intensity and frequency,”Orr stated, adding that Auckland experienced its longest dry spell of 47 days this year, well above the average length of 10 days.
Orr also outlined the institutional transformation underway at the Te Pūtea Matua, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, to ensure that the Bank continues to promote the prosperity and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
“We do this in large part by promoting a sound and dynamic monetary and financial system – a necessary platform for a sustainable and productive economy,” Orr said.
“We have moved to incorporate climate change as a key priority in our activities; incorporating climate change into our core functions. Managing our direct impact on the climate, and leading through experience and collaboration,” he added.
“We are also building our climate expertise and awareness through training and development for all staff, and building our technical expertise, stepping up our supervision of climate-related risks for banks and insurers. We have recently completed training our supervisors in climate-related risks and are integrating climate risks into our supervision frameworks.”
At a societal level,Orr noted that change can be incremental or driven by a shock and provided the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of a shock causing global change. He also added that there was a need to think about the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead given the prospects of rebuilding economies in a more environmentally sustainable manner.
Orr observed that globally, no one party can tackle climate change alone. Recognising work already underway in the Pacific region, and global level, Orr urged public and private sector knowledge and capital be mobilised together to help address climate change, including through appropriate incentive structures.
He concluded his address by noting that while transformational change meant doing things differently as individuals, institutions, and society, climate change is a risk that requires a collective response. Grounding that response in collective knowledge, data and expertise will strengthen its effectiveness.
“We are all of one race, we must adapt,” he concluded.
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