Why New Zealand should prioritise adapting to climate change

Council calls on central government to take responsibility for coordinating planning

Why New Zealand should prioritise adapting to climate change

Insurance News

By Krizzel Canlas

The Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) has expressed its dismay over the government’s lack of support for New Zealand’s adaptation towards climate change impact.

The council’s comment follows the release of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) report on the establishment of a climate change commission and legislation to enact the Zero Carbon Act.

According to ICNZ chief executive Tim Grafton, no matter how successful the country is in achieving greenhouse gas reduction targets, New Zealand will still have to deal with the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

“Greenhouse gas emissions are cumulative, which means rising temperatures, increased flood risk in some parts of the country and increased risk of drought in others,” he said. “Unless we adapt, there will be significant economic, social and environmental costs.”

ICNZ recalls how extreme weather events in 2017 caused more than 25,000 claims from homes and businesses costing over $240 million in insured losses. If there were to be a 30cm sea level rise between now and 2065, a relatively conservative possibility, what are today considered extreme, one-in-100-year high water levels will occur annually in both Wellington and Christchurch. There are 32,000 homes within 1.5m of the current mean high tide level, it said.

Grafton calls on the central government to take ownership of identifying and reducing risks to people, property and the environment.

“This requires dedicated resources, coordination across Ministries and bipartisan political commitment towards achieving over the long term,” he explained. “These matters need to be at the heart of the package of reforms the Government is considering alongside climate change mitigation.

“As the Commissioner notes, New Zealand is one of the few OECD countries to not have a national adaptation strategy and that should be provided for in legislation.”

Monitoring how well New Zealand is reducing its climate change risks should be done independently and transparently, he added.

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