UCI undergrad advocates for equitable climate solutions before the New Zealand Parliament
Jonpaul Cohen, a native New Zealander who has family on the Pacific islands of Samoa and Tuvalu, is passionate about protecting Polynesian culture, lives and livelihoods from the ravages of climate change. In a presentation to an environmental committee of the New Zealand Parliament on Aug. 4, the UCI undergraduate majoring in psychology advocated for increased funding in a proposed budget for climate mitigation programs in New Zealand and many surrounding South Pacific islands. “When you consider the climate crisis that’s looming overhead, we are looking at these higher levels of financial burden put out towards climate refugees that we have created,” said Cohen during the livestreamed video conference. “When we weigh how much money we are paying towards advertising and getting New Zealanders emotionally committed to the sacrifices it might take to meet these goals, we need to look at how much money we’re saving in areas such as climate refugees and overall damage to our environment.” In his presentation, he referenced climate science research at UCI suggesting that without more funding for mitigation efforts, New Zealand’s carbon emissions could cause 270 million tons of water from melted polar ice to reach the shores of vulnerable territories such as Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands. “I was honored to have been accepted as a presenter for this environmental committee meeting of New Zealand’s Parliament,” Cohen said. “We can’t overstate the importance of helping smaller and less privileged nations in the Pacific to meet their own climate goals.” New Zealand law requires committee meetings to be available to the public; Cohen’s 11-minute session is accessible on a Facebook video stream, beginning at the 3:03 mark.