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Monday, October 30, 2006


NZ's MAIN STREAM MEDIA takes notice at last of CLimate Change!

Below are three articles from today's media on how climate change is starting to intersect with New Zealand politics and business.

The "turn" by Helen Clark & Labour towards making climate change a political priority will open up more space for mass debate and action on this issue. ClimAction has been set up none too soon.

However, Labour's current raft of climate change policies seem laughably far off Clark's stated goal of making New Zealand "carbon neutral".

And big business is already warning the government that its climate change policies must not get out of step with New Zealand's "main trading partners" - that is, the global market must continue to rule, despite being the driver of the climate change crisis in the first place.

Grant M

NZ clean and green - or poor


New Zealand's economic future could be under threat from mounting global warming fears and it must convince the world it is a clean, sustainable producer, Prime Minister Helen Clark has warned.

Dire forecasts about the impact of climate change could trigger a new round of trade protectionism based on environmental barriers and tariffs ­ damaging this country's ability to sell goods to lucrative markets.

A key risk was consumers opting to buy local products in an effort to cut carbon emissions from transporting goods, known as "food miles".

"Unless we're seen to be going the extra mile on sustainability, we run the risk of being labelled as simply unsustainable producers, major carbon emitters even trying to get our produce to market," Miss Clark said.

There had even been talk of "global warming premiums" that could harm exports of fruit, vegetables and flowers. Fruit and vegetable exports earned more than $1.5 billion in the first nine months of this year.

"We really do have to take these issues extremely seriously and be mindful of our reputation as an economy," she said.

Often the perception was ill-founded. Carbon emissions from producing and shipping New Zealand's dairy products worldwide were less than emissions from producing the same products in Europe.

New Zealand kiwifruit had been singled out, one report claiming a kilogram of air-freighted fruit caused 5kg of carbon emissions.

Kiwifruit is not usually air-freighted, however.

Miss Clark's concerns follow the release of a report by chief British Government economist Nicholas Stern warning of economic upheavals if climate change is not addressed.

A call for bold action on climate change was a key part of Miss Clark's speech to the Labour Party conference in Rotorua on Saturday.

The Government would assess how the data in the Stern report affected New Zealand, she said, and could seek its own study to analyse the specific economic impact.

"I think we are broadly aware of what rising sea levels and much more volatile climate would do to our agricultural- based economy but it may be that we need to be taking a rather broader look than that."

Miss Clark's speech at the opening of Parliament in February would include more details of the Government's plans.

"We need to take a majority of Parliament with us if there are to be sticks. Everyone will vote for carrots, but there need to be some balance of incentives and disincentives around some of these issues."

Measures could include limits on the age of imported cars, sustainable land use and management, and a higher percentage of biofuels in petrol.

The Government failed to win public support for the "fart tax" aimed at reducing agricultural emissions, or a 4-cent carbon tax on petrol.

Miss Clark said high fuel prices had already boosted the use of public transport in Auckland and Wellington, and the Government was "running to catch up with the demand". Spending on public transport would need to increase further.

The Stern report warns the world has 10 years to tackle climate change, or face a global recession costing about $10 trillion.

The United Nations reported yesterday that the industrial world's emissions of greenhouse gases are growing again.

Kiwifruit caught in a global warming storm


The humble New Zealand kiwifruit has been caught at the centre of growing alarm in Britain over the effects of global warming.

A major report released says the global cost of climate change could top NZ$10 trillion ­ and a former UK cabinet minister called for a tax on exotic fruit to be considered amongst measures to change consumer behaviour.

In an article titled "five ways to make a difference" The Guardian newspaper said readers should avoid foods that had travelled long distances between production and consumption.

"One kiwifruit flown from New Zealand, for instance, emits five times its own weight in carbon dioxide emissions . . . and the average shopping basket of food has clocked up the same miles as flying to the moon" the article said.

But just a few trays of the 100,000 tonnes of NZ kiwifruit sent to Europe every year were air-freighted, said Zespri general manager marketing services Peter Luxton.

Zespri produce was shipped because air freight was too expensive.

"The trade shouldn't be threatened but people could get the wrong impression," said Mr Luxton.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said that though kiwifruit was not generally air freighted, New Zealand was a long way from high value markets and needed to get its produce to there somehow.

"We really do have to take these issues extremely seriously and be mindful of our reputation as an economy."

A Lincoln University study found New Zealand produce, such as dairy products or fruit, was produced efficiently by world standards and if it was shipped rather than flown, still had lower emissions than UK produce.

Business cautious on green policies


The Labour Government's green policies could have a "phenomenal" cost if it tries to implement them quickly, businesses say.

Greenhouse Policy Coalition executive director Catherine Beard said yesterday the impact of a radical greening of Labour's policies signalled by Prime Minister Helen Clark at the party's annual conference depended on their time frame.

Mrs Beard said the prime minister's suggestion New Zealand could become "carbon neutral" was a big ask when 50 per cent of our emissions came from agriculture and 20 per cent from transport where there were no near term answers to reduce those types of emissions.

The coalition represents the view of large industries and businesses on greenhouse policies.

Carbon neutrality would require other measures to offset carbon emissions, such as tree planting and carbon capture by a coal-fired power plant.

"The question is how quickly can you move to that sort of goal. And is it realistic when you've got such a big chunk of your emissions coming from an area which no one has a solution for in the medium term?" The cost of going carbon neutral would depend on the time frame.

"If you tried to do it in the short term I think the cost would be phenomenal because we don't have low carbon options that are technologically ready and competitive."

New Zealand needed to be careful to keep in step with its main trading partners on climate change policies.

Otherwise, it risked "leakage" where large companies relocated to another country where there were fewer or no penalties for carbon emissions.

"I think if we were trying to lead the world there would be considerable concern given that we (New Zealand) produce 0.2 per cent of emissions (globally). The big question mark there is can we afford to and what would happen to our industry."

Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly said the greening of Labour's policies had come as a surprise.

The business community was pleased the prime minister clearly said New Zealand did not want to trade off living standards to be green but wanted to have both.

"That's an implicit acceptance, it seems to me, and a good one, and we support this, that living standards should remain high. That means you have to have successful business." The challenge was to engage with the Government on the practicality and timing of climate change policies.

"How do we do that in a way that retains competitiveness and does that mean New Zealand has an opportunity not only to sustain its living standards but to grow them as a result."

There was a wide range of views in the business community on climate change but also an increasing acceptance it needed to engage and take a leadership role on climate change issues.

Electricity commentator Brian Leyland, spokesman for New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, said achieving carbon neutrality was impossible because all the renewable energy sources being talked would not be enough to replace fossil-fuel based sources. The group believes there is no proof global warming is occurring and man-made.

Mr Leyland said he also believed energy efficiency measures would not reduce electricity consumption. If more households put in heat pumps, for instance, to replace gas heating, then more electricity would be consumed.

It would take more energy to produce crops for biofuels in New Zealand than it did to produce milk.

He believed Miss Clark was softening the country up to "weasel out" of the Kyoto protocol and join another grouping which included Australia, the United States, Japan and China.

These nations believe technology will eventually provide the solutions to emissions.


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