Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the event, ‘Prime Ministers in conversation: Climate change in transition’, Auckland

Ladies and gentlemen, Nau mai Haere mai,  

It's a privilege for me to be speaking to you today in this remarkable location.
You can feel that this building is more than just a physical space: it's a social and spiritual centre where people truly connect.

It's certainly a very welcoming place.
And it shows how essential it is to find a sense of connection: with the people around you, with your ancestors, with nature and the elements.
In the Netherlands we're perhaps less aware of that, even though we've spent many centuries living side by side with water.
I grew up in The Hague, a city on the North Sea coast.
So the sea, the beach and the dunes have always been part of my daily life.
And when I fly back to the Netherlands later this week, my plane will land at Schiphol Airport, which is located four metres below sea level.
That is our reality: my home and the most densely-populated region of my country exist only because of an ingenious system of coastal protection, flood barriers and reclaimed land.

So you'll understand that every centimetre of sea-level rise poses a threat to us.
And like the Pacific islands in this region, the Caribbean islands that are part of our Kingdom  are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
So although the Netherlands and New Zealand could not be further apart geographically, we are natural partners in this respect.
That's why I'm delighted we've signed a joint statement today, highlighting our shared commitment to combating climate change.

That commitment is essential, because the problem is extremely urgent.
For decades now, we've been talking about the need to take steps.
But too often, fine words and political promises have not translated into action.
It's now time for ambitious climate targets and solid measures for achieving them.
In the Netherlands we're raising the bar.
We're going to reduce domestic emissions by 49 per cent by 2030 and 95 per cent by 2050, compared with 1990 levels.
And within the EU we're setting our sights on climate neutrality by 2050.

You may well be thinking: those are impressive ambitions, but how are you going to get it done?

The first step is to realise that you can't simply impose new measures from above.
Because ultimately you need all sections of society to make the transformation: members of the public, small businesses and large corporations, scientists, NGOs and local authorities, to name just a few.
That's why we brought representatives of all relevant parties to the table to make a deal.
After several months of intensive talks, we concluded the National Climate Agreement, which contains concrete measures to ensure we achieve our targets.
They include phasing out all coal-fired power plants by 2030, imposing a targeted carbon levy on industry, and stepping up our efforts on offshore wind power.

I realise, of course, that these measures alone will not be enough.
As Albert Einstein once said, 'We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.'
We need novel ideas, groundbreaking innovations and new energy.
And for that we need you, our young people.
My generation and the generations before created this climate crisis.
And I'm sorry to have to say this, but it will be largely up to your generation to turn the tide.
By coming up with original and inventive solutions.
And by thinking outside the box.

I believe that any problem can be solved with this approach.
As we've already seen, we can achieve more if we join forces.
Earlier today I visited the port of Auckland, which is working with a Dutch company to develop the world's first fully electric tugboat.
The port is also partnering with the Dutch company Philips to replace all its floodlights with LEDs, which will enhance efficiency and sustainability.

And in a completely different field, our countries are working together to tackle one of the most damaging sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
I'm not talking about old diesel cars or coal-fired power plants.
I'm talking about cows, which 'emit' highly damaging methane gas into the atmosphere every day.
The good news is that a Dutch company working with research institutes in New Zealand has developed a food supplement that reduces cattle emissions by 30 per cent.
Isn't it amazing where innovation and cooperation can lead?!

It seems to me that if we can make the gas produced by cows more climate friendly, there is no limit to what we can achieve.
I hope that all of you, with your knowledge, enthusiasm and brainpower, will want to play your part.

Thank you.