Who pays to adapt to rising seas? Ardern, Luxon say it's 'complex'

Source: 1News

Both the Government and National say how New Zealand will adapt to the effects of climate change and rising sea levels - and who will pay for it - are "complex".

It comes after new research projected that sea levels were rising twice as fast as previously thought in some parts of the country. In Auckland and Wellington, for example, infrastructure and homes risk inundation decades earlier than expected.

Climate change, warming temperatures and land subsidence were contributing factors.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday said the Government was having to tackle "the complex issues of sea level rises impacting on existing infrastructure", and that the question of who would pay to adapt to it was not "simple".

"Between us as central government, local government, and of course insurers, we need to look at how we can ensure we're protecting any future infrastructure but also how we deal with any issues of existing infrastructure being impacted by rising sea level changes."

Ardern said the Government's draft National Adaptation Plan was looking for feedback from people about how costs could be spread across those parties.

She added that adaptation wasn't enough and New Zealand needed to do its part to stop the climate from warming to help reduce the rise in sea levels.

Research in 2021 found that even if New Zealand brought its net emissions down to zero, the world had already "baked in a certain level of sea level rise" with current warming.

Last year, a Climate Change Commission report looked at New Zealand's action on climate change and found the country was not on track to meet its 2050 emissions goals.

The Government is expected to release its first Emissions Reduction Plan by May 31 this year.

Meanwhile, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said he hoped the maps showed people the reality of climate change - that it was a "crisis" and an "emergency" and needed to be treated as such.

"For a long time, New Zealanders have thought about climate change as a problem that's happening at some point in the future to someone else, somewhere else in the world.

"What we're now discovering is that it's happening to us, it's happening here and it's happening right now."

Asked if the Government was doing enough to try and stop sea levels from rising, National leader Christopher Luxon said he was waiting to see what the Government would do.

"We want to see what the Government's strategy and plan looks like and we want to be able to be constructive about how we deal with that," Luxon said.

New maps - developed for communities and planners - show how much and how fast the sea level will rise.

"There are complex issues in here about Government getting the setting right, council thinking about the infrastructure and private property owners.

"I'm not going to predicate all of that today. What I'm saying is we understand there is real investment needed around climate adaptation."

He said there were "complex issues" between local and central government, as well as property owners, around who had to pay to adapt to the changing climate.

Luxon used his pre-Budget speech on Monday to outline his "five critical levers of prosperity" - education, infrastructure, technology and innovation, business environment and connections with the world.

When asked why one of those levers didn't include climate change, Luxon said he didn't intend to speak about the topic on Monday in his "focused speech" about the economy.

He said he had "more to say" about the climate "in the coming months".

"I care deeply about the fact we need to be able to hit net zero in 2050. I've done a lot in that space in my past life. I'll continue to champion it very strongly."