The pol­i­tics and poli­cies of a low-car­bon econ­omy

Element - - Business -

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?”

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