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New Zealand’s ex-Premier rallies for environment action

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will work alongside leaders from Conservation International to advocate for climate action and better treatment of the environment, the group said Monday.

Conservation International said Ardern has become its sixth Arnhold Distinguished Fellow and would serve a two-year term to advocate internationally, especially on issues affecting the Pacific and Antarctica. The group said the role was considered part-time and came with a stipend.

It is one several new roles Ardern has announced since unexpectedly stepping down as prime minister in January. She is also completing dual fellowships at Harvard University’s Kennedy School and writing a book on leadership.

“From the beginning of my time in the New Zealand Parliament, I’ve advocated for global climate action,” Ardern said in a statement. “My passion and sense of urgency on this issue has only increased over the last 15 years, especially as I witnessed first-hand the impact of climate change in our region.”

Ardern’s government joined other nations in 2020 by symbolically declaring a climate emergency. Though the declaration came without any new statutory powers or money, she said at the time that it acknowledged the burden the next generation faces.

“For them, it is instinctual, it is tangible, it is real,” Ardern said. “It is about the country they will inherit.”

Ardern also banned new exploration for offshore oil and gas and plastic shopping bags.

Conservation International CEO M Sanjayan said Ardern’s appointment was a win for the entire conservation and climate movement, adding that she “has modelled the kind of leadership, empathy and determination required to deliver crucial environmental and climate solutions.”

Just 37 when she became prime minister in 2017, Ardern became a global icon of the left. When she stepped down she said she no longer had “enough in the tank” to do the job justice. Her political popularity in New Zealand had been fading, and her successor Chris Hipkins suffered a heavy defeat in a general election last month.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures as she gives her victory speech to Labour Party members at an event in Auckland, New Zealand on October 17, 2020. PHOTO: AP