Magazine article New Zealand Management

Emission Impossible? How to Put the Heat on Climate Change: Climate Change, like It or Not, Is Coming to a Coastline near You-Or an Emissions Trading Market. No Longer a Matter for Debate, It Is Now Seen by Many New Zealand Business Decision Makers as an Urgent Problem. but Are We Doing Enough-At Either Government, Business or Community Level? and How Do We Curb Our Carbon without Stifling Economic Growth?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Emission Impossible? How to Put the Heat on Climate Change: Climate Change, like It or Not, Is Coming to a Coastline near You-Or an Emissions Trading Market. No Longer a Matter for Debate, It Is Now Seen by Many New Zealand Business Decision Makers as an Urgent Problem. but Are We Doing Enough-At Either Government, Business or Community Level? and How Do We Curb Our Carbon without Stifling Economic Growth?

Article excerpt

There's little doubt things are heating up on the climate change front--and the evidence is not confined to mercury levels. Recent months have brought a deluge of warnings from top international scientists that some of their climate models are being outpaced by reality.

In his first broadcast interview as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, John Holdren told BBC listeners that we are already experiencing "dangerous human disruption of the global climate" and more is to come.

Studies of Antarctic ice cores have just revealed that the rapid rise in greenhouse gases over the past century is unprecedented over an 800,000 year timespan. Closer to home, Australia's rapid descent into drought conditions has taken scientists by surprise, according to National Water Commission spokesman Peter Cullen.

Meanwhile the self-described "former next president of the United States", Al Gore is busy touring his global warming show, An Inconvenient Truth, around the world urging that we all take action now to change the otherwise catastrophic course climate change is taking. The message from him and from international speakers here for the recent Digital Earth Summit is that we have only a short timeframe (maybe 30 years) to effect the changes needed to ensure survival of anything resembling our existing civilisation--there is no justification for delay.

And that's just a sampling of last month's news--a month that also saw climate change featured as a detailed 16-page special report in The Economist and Arnold Schwarzenegger cement his status as an unlikely green warrior by supporting a bill that requires California to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent before 2020.

Now, clear evidence that the issue has landed on local business agendas. A ShapeNZ online survey by the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development (NZBCSD) has found that 45 percent of New Zealand's business decision makers consider climate change to be an "urgent and immediate problem". A further 38 percent rate it as a problem right now. Just eight percent see it as a problem for the future and another seven percent reckon it's not really a problem at all.

NZ Business chief executive Phil O'Reilly isn't surprised.

"There's no question that this is an issue that has arrived, but for a variety of reasons--and there is a range of views in business about the urgent and immediate nature of climate change. That extends from those who see it as being urgent now right through to climate change sceptics."

But a combined push on the issue from central and local government as well as customers, investors and insurers means that even sceptics can't afford to ignore the business implications of climate change.

"Where I think there is a consensus in business," says O'Reilly, "is seeing this as an issue that business needs to engage in--as much as anything because it is a political issue. The Government is doing something about this, so business had better engage--there's a very practical bent about that."

So just what is the Government doing?

Not quite enough--according to views expressed by ShapeNZ respondents. When asked how they rated the current Government's management of climate change on a one-to-five scale, most gave it only a poor-to-mediocre score: 24 percent chose 'one', a further 36 percent dealt it a slightly kinder 'two', while 22 percent opted for 'three'. (See survey details p31.)

Certainly its record to date has not been great. Since ratifying Kyoto and committing to carbon emission reduction in 2002, the Government has executed two perfect backward policy flips. A proposed "fart tax" on livestock emissions which would have cost the farming industry an estimated $8.4 million raised a huge stink before being quietly dissipated in New Zealand's uniquely methane-laden airs. Then a radical carbon tax for emitters set at $15 a tonne and due to come into effect next year was also abandoned, late in 2005, in the face of business and consumer opposition. …

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