Friday, August 07, 2009

Climate change: Even the Herald thinks we should act

As the voice of Auckland's business community, the New Zealand Herald is not exactly noted for caring about the environment. But today, it devotes its editorial to a call for New Zealand to lead on climate change:

New Zealand's biggest earners - tourism, agriculture, seafood, sustainable forestry, food and beverage - all benefited from the credentials provided by our environment, he wrote. This gave us a point of difference, a reason for consumers to pay more for our products and, most importantly, a way to grow in a competitive world. Copenhagen, said Mr Ross, was a great opportunity for New Zealand to make a big global statement and to sell more for more money because of it.


The public has not been well served by the renewed debate on what approach New Zealand should adopt. Major emitters have spread unnecessary alarm over the cost to the average wage-earner of an ambitious target. The Greens, for their part, make light of the obstacles to the likes of aggressive tree planting, pest eradication and lower stocking rates. On balance, however, an enterprising approach appeals more than caution. It would not be inimical to a push for rule changes.

The world has become far more environmentally conscious. We cannot afford to be seen as a laggard. There is a chance to seize the initiative. It should not be missed.

Economic advantage is not the best reason for acting, but its one that the greedy will understand. And its not just a matter of selling ourselves better - its also about not being whacked with border taxes by the US and EU. Even those who couldn't care less about our "clean and green" image and whose core business depends on pollution - farmers, for example - should understand that threat.

Unfortunately it has become clear from the "consultation" round and John Key's STFU to Keisha Castle-Hughes that the government isn't actually interested in what we think. It is too deeply in hock to large polluters and dirty farmers. And we'll all pay the price for that in the future.