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KiC in conversation with Simon Watts

Updated: Apr 5

Kiwis in Climate recently welcomed the new Minister for Climate Change, Hon. Simon Watts, to an online meet and greet with our global network. The objective of the session was to introduce ourselves as a diverse group of passionate Kiwis working in climate, hear from the Minister on his priorities for the role, and offer our support to deliver on this critical mahi for the future of Aotearoa. 


Some of the key themes the Minister covered in his address included:

Collaboration and transparency

Minister Watts acknowledged the importance of working with groups like Kiwis in Climate and others like it as well as the involvement of diverse stakeholders in developing solutions. 

While he stressed the necessity of bipartisan support for the long-term adoption of plans and frameworks, he also talked about how successive governments may disagree on the ‘how’ of achieving agreed targets. 

The Minister made strong mention of transparency as a key goal for his government’s approach to climate action, noting that not all New Zealanders have a high level of climate literacy and that we need to bring everyone on the journey. 


On mitigation, the Minister reiterated this government’s commitment to net zero by 2050 target and our NDCs (50% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030), however expressed his concern that this government had not inherited what they believe to be a viable plan to achieve this, and that the current economic environment makes climate action difficult and expensive. The ‘economic realities’ were also raised in the context of free industrial allocation of NZUs where the Minister confirmed there was no intention to change this. 

The Minister and his office is currently working on the next emissions reduction plan which he says will focus on what they believe to be the key drivers of emissions reduction - “agriculture, transport, energy, industry, waste, forestry and other non forestry or sequestration opportunities”. This plan will set out actions for the critical 2026-2030 period and consultation is due to happen in June 2024. 

On agriculture, the Minister emphasised the government’s commitment to having a pricing mechanism for agricultural emissions by 2030 and the role of technology in reducing livestock emissions, particularly methane. 


Minister Watts was firm in communicating that he believed climate adaptation is the “single biggest fiscal risk to the government’s balance sheet” and talked about the need for an “enduring adaptation framework” that is bipartisan and will provide a set of “guiding principles for how this country will deal with the challenges that we will face in the future”. 

The Minister recognised that iwi Maori are at the frontline of adaptation challenges and expressed the importance of community engagement in developing adaptation plans. 


Kiwis in Climate response to the Minister

We want to thank Minister Watts for taking the time to meet with us, share his plans and respond to questions from the community, and we greatly look forward to supporting this government to prioritise climate action as one of the most important areas of work over the coming years. 

Reflecting on the strong economic and innovation lens the Minister brings to climate efforts, we emphasise our belief that action on emissions reduction will only get more costly and expensive the longer we prolong it. New Zealand should act as quickly as possible, as soon as possible, to ensure a more affordable, low-carbon future for ourselves and future generations. We wholeheartedly agree with the Minister’s comment that “the time for talk is over”. 

We also welcome his commitment to transparency and look forward to supporting all efforts to make climate action a priority for all Kiwis. 

With regard to specific policies, we refer to our recent community advocacy on repealing the oil and gas exploration ban, as well as our ‘climate election’ open letter which outlined a number of proposed policies across key sectors. 

Lastly, we are encouraged to hear a continued commitment to bipartisan support for climate targets, however express our concern that disagreements by successive governments on the ‘how’ may lead to delays we cannot afford. Bipartisanship may need to go deeper than targets if we are to achieve our goals within necessary timeframes. 


Kiwis in Climate 2023 in review and 2024 strategy, as presented on the Zoom

Watch video excerpts from the event below.

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