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NZ's action on climate change 'woefully inadequate' - James Shaw

New Zealand's response to climate change over the past 30 years has been "woefully inadequate", James Shaw says ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow which he'll attend in November.

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The Climate Change Minister says the threat to the planet will be around after the Covid-19 pandemic. Source: Q+A

The Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader on Sunday told Q+A's Jack Tame that the threat to the planet from climate change will still be around after the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I get a lot of criticism, particularly from the Opposition, for continuing to role out our climate change programme as they quite correctly say 'there is a pandemic on'.

"But ultimately the climate crisis hasn't gone away just because there is a pandemic and as we get through it and we get vaccinated and things start to return to some form of normal, the climate crisis will be there waiting for us to respond to just as it has been for the last 30 years," he said.

Shaw said Parliament has had "severe restrictions" over the past eight weeks since Delta got into the community, which has meant some delays on climate action.

"That's regrettable but it's just a function of having to respond to the circumstances that we're in. Nobody wanted that to happen ... I mean, that's just a function of having to deal with a pandemic crisis at the same time as dealing with a climate crisis, a housing crisis and so on."

His comments come as the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) rated New Zealand's action and policies as "highly insufficient".

That puts New Zealand as worse then Kenya, Nigeria, Bhutan, the Philippines, Britain, the EU and the US.

When asked if that was embarrassing as New Zealand's climate change minister, Shaw said it was "to a point".

"The Climate Action Tracer doesn't take into account some of our recent policy decisions and of course it won't take into account any revisions to our target that we take into Paris - Cabinet will be making decisions on that in the next few weeks," he said.

"But if you look at our record over the last 30 years it has been woefully inadequate when you compare it to the scale of the challenge and what's required so I don't, kind of, bat an eyelid about that in the sense that we have known this for a very long time.

"And I think it just underscores the importance of the work we are doing in this Government to upgrade the response we have as a country to climate change."

Shaw added though that Ghana was the only nation rated as adequate on the Climate Action Tracker.

"The kind of broad picture that it paints, not just about New Zealand but about the entire planet's response, is that it is woefully inadequate."

Shaw also said he wasn't phased by criticism from both sides - that he's not doing enough or doing too much.

"I don't think about this in terms of risk to my personal reputation, I actually couldn't care less about that in the grand scheme of things. I think the greatest risk is that as a country and as a planet we fail to take action on climate at the scale at which that challenge represents," he said.

"So far our response here and in this country and around the world has been woefully inadequate that is why the work that we're doing is so important, that's why the conference in Glasgow is so important, because the consensus around the Paris Agreement is fraying and we've got to get that show back on the road otherwise we have no hope of limiting the worst effects of climate change.

"This is really our last change saloon."

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) runs from October 31 to November 12.

Source: Q+A