Back in October, Helen Clark proposed putting New Zealand "in the vanguard" of the fight against climate change, by setting a long-term goal of carbon neutrality. It's a great objective, but still to be backed by real policy which lays out a pathway for achieving it (expect something in a couple of months). Meanwhile, another country has just declared that they will be going carbon neutral: Norway:
"By 2050 greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced drastically. Rich countries should become carbon neutral. This does not mean no emissions from the countries in question. But it does mean that each tonne of greenhouse gases emitted is to be offset by an equivalent reduction elsewhere. This adds up to zero emissions," [Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg] said.
"Norway will be at the forefront of international climate effort. I propose that in the period up to 2050 Norway will undertake to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 100% of our own emissions." He said the government would "sharpen" measures to meet its existing obligations under the Kyoto protocol by 10% in the period up to 2012, and had agreed to a 30% cut in emissions by 2030.
Unlike Clark, Norway's Prime Minister has set a clear timetable: carbon neutrality by 2050. And unlike New Zealand, Norway has serious policies already in place to limit domestic emissions. They've had a carbon tax since 1991, which has driven significant improvements in energy efficiency; greenhouse gas emissions are subject to planning laws (we removed them from ours); and they have actively encouraged forest sequestration (rather than leaving it to the market). They will still be dependant on purchasing offsets on the international market to achieve neutrality, but it is backed by a solid policy base which is pushing their economy in the right direction. Compared with New Zealand's seventeen years of inaction on climate change and utter lack of policy over that period, and its not difficult to see who the real vanguard is.