Shaw is eager to allow low-lying Pacific people to migrate to New Zealand if they have to flee their homes because of climate change.
He, alongside Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio, attended the COP23 climate change meeting in Germany this week. The meeting highlighted the threat posed by rising seas to nations like Tuvalu, Fiji and Vanuatu.
“It is the first opportunity for the new Government of Jacinda Ardern and us to stand up on the world stage and to say, ‘there is a significant change in New Zealand’s policy and we aim to lift our ambition massively and go from being something of a follower to one of the world’s leading countries in the fight against climate change’. We aim to be a carbon neutral economy by 2050 – that would put us in the leading pack of the top 10 countries,” said Shaw.
“New Zealand has copped fair criticism in the past for not really doing anything to reduce our domestic emissions, and in particular using international carbon credits to pay other people to reduce their emissions so we don’t have to. I think that criticism was valid.
“Well, before you get into the technical conversations, or even whether it’s a specific visa category, the first principle is that people who are displaced by rising seas are going to need some way of migrating with dignity.
“It’s not urgent because the number of people displaced internationally from rising seas is low, but we know we’ve got to get ahead of the problem.
“They don’t want to lose their country, and we don’t want them to lose their country either. But we know that there is internal displacement. And that is going to lead in the not-too-distant future to external displacement. We do want to get ahead of it.”