Case study: Climate Change: New Zealand - An ‘ideas engine’ in the multilateral world order

The rulebook for the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change was agreed at COP24 in December 2018. New Zealand diplomat Jo Tyndall played a prominent role in reaching this milestone.

The Paris Agreement has been described as ‘the world’s greatest diplomatic success’. In her role as New Zealand’s Climate Change Ambassador, Jo Tyndall, and her Saudi Arabian co-chair Sarah Bashaan, managed the negotiating body to deliver rules to make the Paris Agreement operational. It was a delicate and complex task. The same divides and differences of interpretation that proved challenging to get the Paris Agreement across the line in 2015 remained in play. But the co-chairs succeeded in getting the rulebook agreed in time ready for the Agreement to come into effect in 2020. The rules provide guidance on implementing the Paris Agreement including setting emissions reduction targets, and reviewing and reporting progress.

Despite New Zealand’s small size, we have a significant voice in the climate change world, providing leadership and putting forward creative solutions.

Climate change is a global problem needing universal action. New Zealand’s approach in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement was to design an agreement that would get other countries’ buy-in, but still be robust. New Zealand took the view that the perfect agreement counts for nothing if only a handful of parties sign up to it. Stringent penalties are pointless if governments choose to leave when faced with their imposition. Our approach both during negotiation of the Paris Agreement and in the lead up to COP24 was to establish a rules framework supported by domestic policies. It forms a solid foundation allowing countries to increase their pace of action.

This success has bolstered the international view of New Zealand as an ‘ideas engine’ and an effective upholder of the multilateral system.

Sarah Baashan and Jo Tyndall co-chair the APA for the last time.
APA Co-Chairs Sarah Baashan, Saudi Arabia, and Jo Tyndall, New Zealand, gavel the APA to a close for the last time. Credit: IISD/Kiara Worth


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