Monday, June 11, 2012

For green growth

Pure Advantage, a lobby-group of kiwi businesspeople interested in boosting the Green economy, have released a major report on New Zealand's Position in the Green Race [PDF]. Its both sobering and inspiring reading.

The sobering bit is how we have fallen down the international environmental rankings, undermining our "100% pure" image and degrading our quality of life. The inspiring bit is that we can change this, and do well economically into the bargain. Internationally, green growth and clean technology is hot, and potentially worth NZ$6 trillion. And we have some good opportunities to get a piece of that pie. We have world-leading expertise in geothermal energy and in agricultural research. We have an enormous potential resource for bio-energy and non-food-based biofuels. We have a strong aquaculture sector. And we have enormous potential for a green growth dividend by insulating our cold, damp houses and setting higher standards for buildings. Its an inspiring vision. The question is how we get there.

Unfortunately, on that front, things look a bit bleaker. From the case-studies, the major driver overseas has been government action, either by setting tough environmental standards (thus forcing innovation) or by direct financial incentives. National opposes both types of action - the first because its "red tape" which "slows down business", and the second because they'd rather spend the money on tax cuts for their rich mates. As a result, the report basically writes off government completely, and is instead looking for "corporate champions" to drive the shift. But again looking at the case studies, that hasn't happened anywhere overseas, and it is hard to imagine it happening here with our business management and its fixation on getting government handouts through policy change.

The good news is that Labour at least seems to be taking it seriously. They've already shown some interest in these sorts of measures (the Projects Mechanism for reducing GHG emissions, and the Biofuels Obligation), and Pure Advantage's agenda is right up their alley. Unless of course it falls prey to their internal hatred of David Cunliffe...

We need to shift the economy away from National's extractive model and towards a more sustainable path. There's some good ideas in this report on how to do it. And if this government won't listen, hopefully the next one will.