WELLINGTON: climate change its greatest security threat and stressed the importance of the issue to the geostrategically contested Pacific region, which is seeing increased influence from China, New Zealand released a defense policy statement on Thursday.
Defence Minister Ron Mark in an emailed statement, "It identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time, and one that is already having adverse impacts both at home and in New Zealand's neighborhood,"
He added, "Working with Pacific Island countries on climate change, including in the security sphere, is an opportunity to learn lessons from each other while further strengthening strategic partnerships."
The report said that states could look to use assistance on climate change as a way to boost their influence and access in the region.
"Traditional powers in the region have this anxiety about China's intentions and so they are looking to assure Pacific islands that they are listening to their concerns," said Wesley Morgan, an expert in Pacific politics at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji.
New Zealand's government led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put combating climate change at the heart of its policies and on Wednesday announced an NZ$100 million ($68.62 million) investment fund to spur growth in projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.