Shaw does need to be at the conference - and he needs to be there in person.
Briefing papers released under the Official Information Act from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs show officials are anxious that New Zealand could drop off the world stage if ministers don't start attending events in person.
This wasn't an issue last year, when more or less everyone stopped travelling. International gatherings switched to Zoom, and life went on. This year is different.
The return to in-person meetings means New Zealand has unenviable choices about its own attendance - we either show up in person or not at all.
Faced with allegations from overseas that New Zealand is a "hermit kingdom", it's not surprising that the Government chose to send Shaw in person. The Government is a price taker in this instance. If the rest of the world is returning to in-person meetings, finding a carve-out for New Zealand isn't an option.
The Glasgow conference, COP26, is perhaps the most significant gathering of leaders since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015. Indeed, it was suggested at one time that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern herself would put in an appearance - although this was quickly scuppered. So a Government that is keen to shrug off "hermit kingdom" allegations - not to mention one that wants to build on its climate credentials - was always going to have to attend the meeting.
The Government has some big policy to announce on the side, likely a NDC - essentially an emissions reduction pledge - and potentially more money to help developing countries deal with the challenges of climate change.
The meeting is more or less essential for New Zealand's international standing heading into the critical Paris deadline of 2030.
The problem is nearly all of us have something that's worth going to - or even essential.
Governments aren't the only organisations that will struggle to have their voices heard if they're the only ones Zooming to in-person meetings. Business travel isn't as essential as the Koru class likes to pretend it is, but cancelling trips entirely does risk New Zealand voices not being heard at the world's top tables.
A capital-shallow country like New Zealand needs to work the room to ensure we're still at the top table when it comes to attracting foreign investment. Former Prime Minister Bill English joked, in his valedictory speech, that as deputy prime minister he once asked a 28-year-old American fund manager where New Zealand was.
The man replied: "On our list, it's between Netherlands and Namibia." The moral being that even the deputy prime minister has to work hard selling the country to the world's investors.
Likewise, the country's film workers might be scratching their heads that a better solution could be found to their Lord of the Rings predicament. One of the reasons Amazon took the project offshore is apparently because of problems getting cast members through the border.
This is obviously a different problem to Shaw's, but the principle is the same: many people have one essential reason or another to hope for a more accommodating border - one that would take steps towards allow the free flow of people to return entirely, or that would expand the number of MIQ spots, making it easier to travel.
The problem isn't just restricted to business travel. The border has split families. Hundreds of thousands of people, some New Zealand citizens or residents, others not, have been unable to attend funerals and weddings thanks to the current border regime.
Only a couple of years ago, many of us would have considered that sort of travel more or less "essential" too.
The problem will only get worse. A fortnight ago, the National Party tried to speak to anxiety around the border by launching a policy that would prioritise returnees, giving people needing to visit sick or dying family members priority access to coveted MIQ spots. Currently, access to MIQ slots is a lottery - rooms could just as easily go to New Zealanders returning home for a holiday.
That policy pushes some of the right buttons but it might not go far enough. People returning home for a bit of facetime with family and friends are obviously not included in priority groups now, but if this pandemic drags on for another year or two then that kind of travel starts to look pretty essential too.
We're not far from the second anniversary of border closures - and there's little sign that the border will open in any substantial way any time soon. A short pilot of home isolation for a select number of business travellers is not going to reunite the hundreds of thousands of families split by the current border policy.
As time drags on, more and more travel begins to look essential. Cancelling an annual trip home from Oz or the UK is one thing, but a whole generation of overseas Kiwis now face a future disconnected from their friends and families, never knowing their nieces and nephews. After a few years of being grounded, holidays to visit family become essential travel too.
All of this is to say that the Government will fast run out of excuses for why its ministers and officials should travel, while the rest of the country is more or less grounded.
The problem is an electoral one too. While the current state of the pandemic means almost everyone is quite happy with a tight border (according to the Government's own research), but New Zealand is a pluralist society. More than a quarter of its residents were born overseas (many to non-resident parents) and a million Kiwis live abroad.
That's an enormous voting bloc of people whose lives suggest they might require some degree of openness from the border. People who can't currently vote with their feet, but who won't have to wait long before they can vote with their ballots.