The AP Interview: NZ climate chief to aim higher at UN talks

New Zealand AP Interview James Shaw

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has shown that humans are very good at responding to an immediate crisis, says New Zealand's Climate Change Minister James Shaw. But when it comes to dealing with a slower-moving threat like climate change, he says, we're “terribly bad.”

Shaw spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday ahead of a key climate summit that starts in Glasgow, Scotland, on Oct. 31. Many environmentalists say the U.N. summit, known as COP26, represents the world's final chance to avert a climate catastrophe.

Shaw said that at Glasgow, he intends to announce a more ambitious target for New Zealand’s emissions reductions over the coming decade, and he hopes many other countries also aim higher.

He said a top priority will be to ensure that a promise made by wealthier nations to provide $100 billion a year to help poorer countries switch to cleaner energy is fulfilled.

“The developed world so far has not delivered on that promise,” Shaw said.

That has led to a breakdown in trust and a fraying of the consensus reached with the 2015 Paris Agreement, he said. It's also giving an excuse to authoritarian regimes to disrupt international cooperation, he added.

Shaw said the pandemic had accelerated the transition to cleaner energy in some countries. But in many developing nations it had slowed improvements, he said, because they were struggling simply to cope with the massive financial and social impacts from the disease.