Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Something to be proud of

New Zealand ranks first in the world for environmental sustainability, according to the 2006 Environmental Performance Index. But while this is something to be proud of, and which confirms our self-image as being "clean and green", it doesn't mean we can stop worrying about the environment. As is clear from our country profile [PDF; we're on page 85], we have a long way to go. We rate poorly for overfishing, wilderness protection, and for renewable energy (though the latter is very high by world standards). While we rate very highly for water resources, this is measured by overconsumption and nitrogen runoff, both of which are getting worse. If we wish to maintain this ranking, we are going to have to work harder on improving these areas, otherwise we won't be "clean and green" so much as "dirty and brown".


Hats off to all the environmental/lobby groups that have a hand in this; from NFA to Forest and Bird. It really has been 2-3 decades of public awareness that have kept NZ up there as a reasonable example of environmental management. From Manapouri to the Springbok tour and the nuclear ban and on, public opinion in NZ is a powerful weapon. I wish the same seemed true of the US of A at the moment...

Posted by Anonymous : 1/24/2006 12:15:00 PM

Its not clear what data they are using to measure wilderness protection...If they were talking about numbers of species that are in decline then I would agree we are in trouble (although we weren't dealt a good hand) if they are talking about the amount of land that is protected I would question that. You have to ask what areas of true wilderness in NZ are not currently protected? You can't always take these international rankings at face value.


Posted by Anonymous : 1/24/2006 12:16:00 PM

Mike: looking at the methodological descriptions, its about whether the wildest parts (as measured by lack of human infrastructure) of the biomes of a country are protected. We score poorly against the ideal target, but looking closer, well above average on a global scale. So, as with renewable energy, it's failure to be as good as we should be, not being worse than others.

One thing I am curious about is the rating for agricultural subsidies. This is based on data we've provided to the WTO, but I'm wonder what they consider to be a "subsidy"...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/24/2006 01:19:00 PM

Agricultural subsidies from Government in NZ are not zero dollars - even though we would like to believe so. Things like access to Government funded agricultural reserch by CRIs etc, and Government assistance in marketing through trade fairs etc are all counted as subsidy. Doesn't match the billions in the EU and US, of course.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 1/24/2006 01:51:00 PM