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ICNZ slams lack of action on climate change

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The Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) has criticised a climate change report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment for ignoring the issue of adaptation.

The report considers the establishment of a climate change commission and legislation to enact the Zero Carbon Act, but ICNZ says adaptation has “once again taken a back seat”.

“It is disappointing more prominence has not been given to how New Zealand will adapt to climate change impacts,” CEO Tim Grafton said.

“Because no matter how successful New Zealand is in achieving greenhouse gas reduction targets, we will still have to deal with the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

“Greenhouse gas emissions are cumulative, which means rising temperatures, increased flood risk in some parts of the country and increased risk of drought in others will continue.

“Unless we adapt, there will be significant economic, social and environmental costs.”

ICNZ says last year extreme weather events led to more than 25,000 claims from homes and businesses and more than $NZ240 million ($223.82 million) in insured losses.

A 30cm sea level rise between now and 2065, considered a relatively conservative prediction, would mean what are now one-in-100-year high water levels would occur annually in Wellington and Christchurch. There are 32,000 homes within 1.5m of the current mean high tide level.

“How we become more resilient and reduce these risks is what adaptation is all about,” Mr Grafton said.

“New Zealand needs its central Government to take ownership of identifying and reducing risks to people, property and the environment, and providing clear guidance to local government, because that is where many decisions are made.

“This requires dedicated resources, co-ordination across ministries, and bipartisan political commitment towards achieving over the long term.”