It’s time to change gear on Climate-change in New Zealand

Timing is right now to shift New Zealand's climate change focus..

New Zealand’s formal Climate Change program in the form of it’s all sectors and all gases Emission Trading System (ETS) has now spanned the Helen Clarke led Labour Government, and the current John Key led National Government. This process has been going on now for more 6-7 years where the ETS has evolved and been refined reflecting the two political parties interests and points of emphasis and the mood of key sectors like forestry, agriculture, energy and indeed the mood of the general public.

Predictably the scare – mongers in the initial years vented and resisted any attempts to change their behavior in favor of continuing to pollute our rivers, lands, the sea and certainly the air. If you believed them the world as going to end with the cost of the ETS. The reality is that the cost of the ETS practically on households in the power bill or filling up the car at the gas station has been minuscule with the increase being dwarfed and lost in the normal volatility of energy prices. More forests are now being planted reversing the trend in recent years. This is important.

Climate change is fast becoming business as usual

A strong rallying call coming from key sector groups today is “what we really need is certainty about the rules”. “What we don’t need is any major change in climate change policy direction”. There are more and more examples of groups (foresters and farmers) who are finding and developing new and multiple revenue streams and growing their beyond what they been previously. Maori farmers north of Tokomaru Bay on the East Coast who historically have struggled with the high cost of transport to the Gisborne port and now able to retire marginal sheep and beef farmland, to farm carbon in both exotic and indigenous forests. The added benefit of this new planting is that it resolves some of the most serious soil erosion in New Zealand.

Greater stability internationally

The Durban Agreement on climate change was hard-fought but has bought together all the key players of the world (large and small, developed and developing countries) for the first time ever, accepting there is an urgent need for co-ordinated and united action to combat climate change. Not only is the Durban Agreement ‘landmark’ for the world, it further adds to stability of climate change policy and planning providing greater certainty for key stakeholders around the world and certainly for New Zealand. Australia too is an important part of the mix for New Zealand given its size, proximity and recent decision to move towards formalizing its climate change response plans and programs.

It’s now time to shift the focus from mitigation to adaptation in New Zealand

Irrespective of which Government is in power in New Zealand, action on climate change is becoming business as usual with key stakeholders and businesses now beginning to understand how to navigate this new space and finding new and innovative ways to grow their balance sheets. But growing them in a way that is much more sustainable for their businesses, their communities, the environment and ultimately for the economy.

Its time now for Government especially to shift its focus from where it has been over the last 5 to 7 years on designing and implementing a set of rules in the form of the ETS. In the next few months the Government pass a number of amendments to the ETS intended to make the system deliver more of the good things and reduce or eliminate some of the problems and inefficiencies. This is important. The search for a much more efficient and low cost system must continue.

But it is now time for Government to seriously turn its attention towards investing seriously into a suite of new technology and innovations into farming and agriculture as a priority. Agriculture continues to be the single biggest source of CO2 emissions. Agriculture is facing entry into the ETS. To date there has been little serious attention paid to practically working with farmers to reduce these emissions. Agriculture is a major mart of the New Zealand economy, Government has a critical leadership role to play in the search for new ideas, innovations and technologies.

Renewable energy has to be another key focus especially at the community and household level to further shift the economy away from reliance on fossil fuels. The Government will I am sure argue that they are already involved and engaged in this issue. But they are not, its is only dabbling.

My point here is that what is required is a fundamental and philosophical change in New Zealand’s climate change focus by Government who must play an important leadership role.

What do you think? The time is right!

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