Tread­ing lightly

Element - - Ecology - By Andy Ken­wor­thy

No green­wash al­lowed The car­bonzero pro­gramme was es­tab­lished in 2001 by Land­care Re­search New Zealand Limited, one of New Zealand’s lead­ing Crown Re­search In­sti­tutes owned by Just 80 New Zealand com­pa­nies hold the car­bonzero cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. An­other 120 more are on the way with the CE­MARS la­bel. A round of ap­plause…

Re­duc­ing car­bon has be­come the world’s crash diet pro­gramme to res­cue its fail­ing health. The good news is that the tran­si­tion to a low car­bon econ­omy is open­ing up enor­mous busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, of which the fittest New Zealand firms are al­ready tak­ing ad­van­tage.

The idea seems dev­as­tat­ingly sim­ple: cut the amount of green­house gases we pump out and so slow the green­house ef­fect that is heat­ing the place up, mak­ing weather pat­terns turn dan­ger­ously odd, melt­ing glaciers and acid­i­fy­ing the oceans.

But it’s not that easy. The vast ma­jor­ity of the world­wide in­dus­trial econ­omy still re­lies on meth­ods of en­ergy gen­er­a­tion, trans­port and pro­duc­tion that emit large amounts of green­house gases.

Which is where pro­grammes like car­bonzero come in. Be­cause there are many ways of low­er­ing emis­sions while im­prov­ing our econ­omy, and new ways of do­ing so are be­ing de­vel­oped all the time. The key to re­duc­ing emis­sions with­out un­der­min­ing our way of life is to sup­port these new de­vel­op­ments and the com­pa­nies that en­gage in them.

For the con­scious con­sumer it means the car­bonzero pro­gramme does the hard work for us, so we don’t have to check out the car­bon cre­den­tials of ev­ery com­pany we want to buy stuff from. And for the com­pa­nies, it al­lows them to get the jump on the big pol­luters when it comes to earn­ing our in­creas­ingly green dol­lars. the gov­ern­ment. It’s based on more than a decade’s worth of re­search, and pro­vides a set of tools for in­di­vid­u­als, or­gan­i­sa­tions, prod­ucts and events to re­duce their green­house gas emis­sions, or car­bon foot­print.

Gra­ham Carter, CEO of the car­bonzero pro­gramme, says: “We were an idea de­vel­oped on the back of a nap­kin in 2001 by Land­care Re­search, and now we are a vi­able com­mer­cial en­tity look­ing to take on the world.”

The first two steps are mea­sur­ing the emis­sions and find­ing ways for them to be re­duced. Cru­cially, an emis­sions in­ven­tory has to be pre­pared, and ef­forts to re­duce emis­sions have to be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied be­fore those seek­ing car­bonzero cer­ti­fi­ca­tion can move to the off­set­ting stage. This avoids com­pa­nies sim­ply pay­ing to pol­lute at ex­ist­ing lev­els.

An­other im­por­tant way of en­sur­ing a gen­uine drop in emis­sions is that if a project would have hap­pened any­way, say through the sale of electricity or be­cause of gov­ern­ment fund­ing, then it can­not be used as an off­set project. Some of the ver­i­fied projects cur­rently ap­proved by car­bonzero in­clude wind power projects in In­dia and China and geo­ther­mal plant in In­done­sia. Closer to home, pay­ments from car­bonzero cer­ti­fied com­pa­nies also help sup­port the use of meth­ane gas from the for­mer Bur­wood land­fill to heat the Queen El­iz­a­beth II Park Re­cre­ation and Sport Cen­tre in Christchurch.

Carter warns to keep on the look­out for cheap im­i­ta­tions: “Peo­ple should think twice if they see or hear a green claim com­ing from an or­gan­i­sa­tion. If there is no cer­ti­fi­ca­tion or trans­parency to in­de­pen­dently back up their en­vi­ron­men­tal or green claims, then you should ques­tion it. There are or­gan­i­sa­tions out there try­ing to jump on the green band­wagon, when re­ally they are tak­ing lit­tle or no cred­i­ble ac­tion.”

The only New Zealand win­ery to be cer­ti­fied car­bonzero since its in­cep­tion, sus­tain­abil­ity is wo­ven into the very fab­ric of Yealands Es­tate. The 1000 hectares of grapes grow­ing on the Marl­bor­ough Hills above the Pa­cific Ocean are punc­tu­ated by no fewer than 25 wet­lands and ex­ten­sive plant­ing of na­tive trees, with the in­ten­tion of en­tic­ing na­tive birds back to the area. It has been the labour of love of Peter Yealands, who with his fam­ily have made this the largest pri­vately owned sin­gle vine­yard in New Zealand. The car­bonzero process is on­go­ing, and Peter and his team are con­stantly de­vel­op­ing new ideas to re­duce emis­sions. Among the flag­ship ini­tia­tives (see be­low), there are a num­ber of smaller im­prove­ments through­out the busi­ness. The vine­yard fleet is run on bio­fu­els, for ex­am­ple, with shut­tle buses for staff utilised for bring­ing the 30 em­ploy­ees from Blen­heim to the win­ery rather than them all bring­ing their own cars.

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