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Pacific leading the way on climate change

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says the Pacific Islands are leading the way in climate change initiatives.

Mr. Shaw met with Tonga's Climate Change Minister Siaosi Sovaleni yesterday as part of the Pacific Mission delegation led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

New Zealand's Minister for Climate Change James Shaw in Tonga. Photo/ PMN.

He says New Zealand is only catching up to what the Pacific nations have already started doing in terms of climate change planning.

"They're matching up their disaster recovery systems with climate change in a way that we in New Zealand are only just now starting to think about, 'Oh you know what there's a connection between civil defence and climate change. There's a connection between our infrastructure, construction and climate change'," he says. 

The delegation visited sites in the Kingdom that were heavily impacted by Cyclone Gita.

New Zealand delegates visiting a primary school in Tonga damaged by Cyclone Gita. Photo/ Tagata Pasifika - Sanele Chadwick.

Mr. Shaw commended Tonga's recovery and rebuilding efforts but says the root of the problem is climate change.

"The frequency and the severity of these storms means that this kind of damage is going to keep happening," he says.

"The Minister for Climate Change here (in Tonga) says that as they build back, they need to build back stronger each time so that future buildings and infrastructure can resist the scale of the storms that they're now seeing."

Last year, Mr Shaw announced he would introduce a Climate Change Commission in 2018.

He says New Zealand has a huge role to play in helping Pacific nations combat the effects of climate change.

"The most important thing we can do as New Zealanders is to try and reduce New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions so that we're not contributing to the problem."

The Pacific Mission is now in the Cook Islands, before returning to New Zealand.

Tags: environment,