Many observers have been stunned that New Zealand’s left-leaning prime minister Jacinda Ardern will not be attending United Nations climate talks in Scotland next month.
Abstaining from COP26 along with the Labour leader are Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, putting her in unusual company.
Even Australia’s centre-right leaning Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed his last minute attendance, following what appeared to be pressure from the United States, United Kingdom and finally even the Queen.
Yahoo News Australia spoke to Ms Ardern’s office to find out why.
The New Zealand prime minister will be hosting the APEC Economic Leaders conference in New Zealand in the week beginning November 8 — clashing with COP26 which runs from October 31 to November 12.
“Due to the PM’s responsibilities as Chair of APEC this year… she is unable to attend COP26,” a spokesperson said.
“The timeframe to do both is too tight and would mean the PM would be in isolation while chairing APEC.
“The PM has passed on her apologies to the UK Prime Minister who understood the constraint. New Zealand is committed to the success of COP26 through the participation of our delegation and our actions which already includes a four-fold increase to our global climate finance contribution.”
Ardern sends stand-in as world faces ‘code red’
As the world faces a climate emergency, it will be New Zealand's Climate Change minister James Shaw who will attend COP26 joining representatives from an expected 197 other countries and the European Union in Glasgow.
Leaders attending the conference will be pressured to set significant 2030 emissions reduction targets, in order to prevent the world heating over 1.5 degrees Celsius.
With the UN releasing a report overnight that warns the planet is on track to warm by 2.7 by the end of the country without significant changes to emissions levels, the pressure is on.
To quote the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, we are facing “code red for humanity”.
New Zealand ranks second last for climate commitment
While Ms Ardern declared a climate emergency last year, she has faced criticism for not following through with action, and her government’s climate plan which was expected in September will now be delayed until May next year.
Australia’s Climate Council, which runs independent of government, ranked New Zealand second last behind Australia in terms of emissions reduction performance and pledges among developed nations.
The tiny island nation faired slightly better when it came to fossil fuel extraction and use, coming in towards the end of the pack at 21 out of 31.
Ms Ardern’s office did not respond directly to questions about what definitive emissions cuts New Zealand planned to make, but issued a short statement.
“New Zealand remains firmly committed to the need for global action to implement the Paris Agreement and to mitigate the effects of climate change,” a spokesperson said.
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