Sworn into office on 26 October 2017, Prime Minister Ardern took part in her first major multilateral engagement at the 2017 APEC Economic Leaders Week.

During the APEC CEO Summit in Da Nang, Viet Nam, New Zealand’s 37-year old economic leader spoke about the role of government in managing resource efficiency and encouraging sustainable growth—one of her government’s keystone issues.  

1. Climate change is the greatest challenge

“Climate change is the greatest challenge facing this generation. It is also the greatest challenge facing the Asia-Pacific region. We have the largest number of climate vulnerable people in the world. We are already seeing the terrible effects of climate change in our region. It is literally lapping at our feet.

2. Small economies can still take responsibility for the planet

“New Zealanders are deeply concerned not just about what is happening to our country, but what is happening to our planet. We are deeply concerned about the state of our environment, and how we use our natural resources. Now during our very recent election in New Zealand, this was a source for concern that was shared with frequently. Our relative size or contribution to climate change doesn’t matter when it comes to our international responsibility. No matter how small we are, we have a role to play, as we all do.” 

3. Low-carbon economies can have potential benefits

“And the heart of doing so successfully—and this is where we come to some of the what can we do—is making smart use of increasingly scarce natural resources and looking at the huge potential economic benefits of a low-carbon economy.” 

4. Getting there requires cooperation of government and business

“Government and business need to work together in partnership to get our economic settings and incentives right to enable us to transition to a low-carbon future. Now this, among many things, involves structurally reforming our economies to provide the right set of incentives to drive change, including better and smarter use of regulation to encourage innovation and more efficient use of our resources to benefit all. 

5. But it will not be easy

“As prime Minister of New Zealand, it is my responsibility to take a lead role on climate change and using our resources responsibly. That means using all of the evidence ad analysis available, getting the best advice and making hard decisions. It’s not easy. There will be trade-offs for all of us. But we owe it to ourselves, our children, and our future generations.” 

6.  New Zealand wants less gassy sheep and cattle

“Agriculture, though, is the single biggest contributor to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. That is why we are focussing our research efforts on livestock emissions, including understanding why some cows and sheep naturally emit lower levels of methane, which could inform both our breeding and our selection programs.  

“We also know that tackling climate change creates co-benefits. We shouldn’t just talk about the cost but also the opportunities. For example, the use of precision agricultural technology yields a triple wind for higher agricultural productivity, increased climate resilience and lower greenhouse gasses.” 

7. She wants to stop subsidizing fossil fuels

“Every year the government spends more than USD500 billion to subsidize fossil fuels, four times the amount we spend on renewable energy. By keeping prices artificially low, fossil fuel subsidies encourage wasteful consumption, disadvantages renewable energy and decreased investment in energy efficiency. We must phase them out.” 

8. She wants to stop harmful fisheries subsidies

“Harmful fisheries subsidies are a serious problem with negative trade, environmental and development impacts. They are another subsidy to eliminate for the benefit of us all.” 

9. Because climate change is happening now

“Climate change is real. It’s happening now. This is not about talking about what we do in the future, but the action that we have the potential to carry as leaders in the business community and the international environment. My challenge to you all is to join us on that journey and leave a legacy we can all be proud of.”