The politics and policies of a low-carbon economy
In 2011 the global emissions trading market was estimated to be worth US$76 billion. But the indirect effect it is having on the entire mindset of the business world goes way beyond that. Alongside governments, businesses around the world have recognised the importance of the challenge of dealing with climate change, and are rising to it. For example, US retail giant Walmart has set a goal to cut 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2015. UK supermarkets in particular are also trying to cut the ‘food miles’ and greenhouse gas emissions of their supply chains and using labeling to allow consumers to choose items made more efficiently or closer to home. This clearly has already had implications for NZ businesses exporting from our relatively remote location, and these could continue and increase.
So how well is New Zealand placed to get our piece of the action?
A spokesperson for climate change minister Tim Groser said that the ETS was one of a range of government polices aimed at incentivising New Zealand businesses to transition to a low-emissions economy while improving productivity. They also pointed to a $42 million investment in biofuel research between 2008-2014 and a $2.5 million increase in spending on energy efficiency this year aimed at saving $30 million in avoidable energy costs.
John Carnegie, manager, energy of environment and infrastructure, for business advocacy group BusinessNZ, said that New Zealand is still among the pioneers of Emissions Trading Schemes worldwide, which brings with it the risk of moving too quickly.
“Businesses are both leading future consumer trends and responding to changing consumer preferences,” he added. “This is the ‘consumer as the new regulator’ playing out in the absence of governments collectively showing global
Dr Ann Smith is acting chief executive of carboNZero, a company operating at the cutting edge of this debate. It was established in 2001 by Landcare Research New Zealand Limited, one of New Zealand’s leading Crown Research Institutes owned by the New Zealand government. It offers training, advice and consulting for individuals, organisations and events aiming to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions or carbon footprint, and also provides internationally recognised and independently accredited carbon monitoring and reduction certification. Many homegrown and international businesses are now working with carboNZero to gain the cost savings and access to markets that lowering carbon emissions can bring. This includes global heavy hitters like BMW, GE and Toyota, with carboNZero certified products turning up in as far-flung places as the UK, Chile and Italy.
She takes a dim view of the national situation.
“I think the discussion of it in New Zealand is dominated by the agricultural sector feeling threatened,” she said. “There is genuine concern but there is a feeling that they are being shouted down. Meanwhile, Auckland Museum has saved more than $200,000 a year working with us, which is more than they get in donations. What would that look like if that was off New Zealand’s bottom line?”