Climate Change A Critical Issue – NZ US Ambassador
Climate change is a critical issue for New Zealand and the Pacific island region as a whole given its exposure to extreme weather events, says New Zealand’s ambassador to the United States Rosemary Banks, in a wide-ranging interview with Anna Gawel, Managing Editor of The Washington Diplomat.
New Zealand recently experienced severe bush fires in an area where none had ever broken out before, says Banks. “The pattern of drought and relief from drought is changing and speeding up — in other words more frequent drought. And all the messages to the farming community are to become more resilient, to look at better ways of water management and pasture management. So there is definitely a built-in assumption that we’re going to have to deal with more of this.”
Gawel notes that “the island nation is also instituting a raft of other ambitious initiatives. It already relies heavily on renewables and is committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner. There’s also a plan to plant 1 billion trees over the next decade to sequester carbon emissions.”
“We’re very active in climate change research in agriculture,” Banks added, noting that New Zealand began a global alliance of around 60 agriculture-producing countries, including the U.S., to tackle the issue. “And we’re looking at different sectors of agriculture that produce greenhouse gases, everything from livestock to rice paddies, and trying to work together and have our scientists well connected to find solutions because agricultural is a big area that’s difficult to address.
“We have been loud proponents of more vigorous, more rapid international action for decades now. So it’s both a concern for ourselves and our near neighbors.”
The Washington Diplomat interview led with New Zealand’s response to the March 15 Christchurch massacre, noting that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern “quickly earned worldwide respect for her empathetic yet defiant and decisive response to the shootings. She never once hesitated to label them an act of terrorism, unlike the prevaricating that so often happens when the perpetrator is white and not Muslim. She refused to say the shooter’s name to deprive him of the notoriety he so desperately craved. And she donned a black headscarf as a sign of respect when she visited members of the Muslim community.”
A 40-year veteran of New Zealand’s foreign service, Banks has served as ambassador to France and Portugal. She was also her country’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York and to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Banks coordinated the emergency responses to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bali bombings and the South Asian tsunami, developing a new emergency response system and guidance manual for New Zealand.
The article also covers the a nationwide ban on all military-style semiautomatic weapons, assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and related modifying parts; the debate over free speech versus public safety; child poverty and the forthcoming “well-being” budget for 2019; the U.S.-New Zealand relationship; ethnic diversity; and Maori values and the 1840 Waitangi Treaty.
“There are two particular Māori values that I think have really shown up in the period post-Christchurch,” said Banks. One is “manaakitanga,” which she said is “the Māori concept of living with each other in tolerance, respect and caring for each other. The other one is about caring for the natural world in the same way, and that’s ‘kaitiakitanga.’ And those two values are really important in our society.”
Original article by Anna Gawel
Uploaded on April 30, 2019