King, who met with New Zealand climate change minister James Shaw during the two-day official visit, said that the focus of discussions involved key areas in which his office would like to do more work with New Zealand.
One of those areas was Climate Risk Assessments (CRA), which estimate the impact that future climate change events can have on infrastructure, and how much that will cost.
“Asset owners are becoming concerned, and active, in the area of how they are affected by climate change, as well as the cost of those impacts,” King said.
“A lot of private sector companies around the world are going down that track, and have been doing that for some time.”
Although assessments are not commonplace in this part of the world, King said that it has been highlighted in the Cook Islands’ national infrastructure investment plan, and he used a road as an example of how it might work.
“The actual cost of a road is for example say $100, and that cost has configured into it impacts from severe events such as storms or flooding during the lifetime of that asset, over the lifetime of that asset, for example, 30-50 years,” King explained.
“However, during that period of time, how will changes in the climate system affect that asset, and can we cost it? The answer is now ‘yes’.”
By looking forward, say 50 years, forecasters have a reasonable idea of what changes will occur to the country, and instead of the road costing $100, the capital cost for the road may cost $180, because climate change has been taken into account. The term often to describe this work is “climate proofing”.
“It means that we are active in our planning, we are taking into account climate impacts on our assets, and that we can minimise the overall cost.
“That’s because we have designed it differently by taking into account how climate change will affect that asset over time, rather than build an asset for a lower cost, but expend higher amounts on the asset each time its damaged or ruined by severe weather events or other climate extreme.”
King said the Cook Islands government was interested in understanding the issue further, and the climate change office planned to work more with Infrastructure Cook Islands and the Cook Islands Investment Corp in the future.
“We’re going to do an exercise with those agencies on two or three assets to understand the process better, and that will take place this year.”
He said that by bringing Shaw as part of the delegation, the New Zealand government had illustrated the issue of climate change for the Pacific countries was highly important to it.
The next opportunity for him to work alongside New Zealand will be at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change intercessional period in May, where further discussions will take place between New Zealand and the Cook Islands.