Facing the future: towards a green economy for New Zealand

Thursday 18 September 7:30PM Venue: Holt Planetarium,  Chambers St, Napier


Emeritus Professor Gerry Carrington presented the recent Royal Society of New Zealand paper on a Green Economy for New Zealand. The good numbers attending showed the interest in this topic and in our region.

Gerry is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Otago, a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and a Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand. He is a trustee of the National Energy Research Institute and the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust.

In 2009, Gerry was awarded the “Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Energy Award” by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, and was noted by the judging panel as being “a leader of change based on academic principles” and “an educator of future generations of energy specialists.”  He is also the founder of the National Energy Research Institute (NERI), an independent, research evidence-based organisation that strives to be a ‘thought-leader’ of the energy sector.

Facing the future: towards a green economy for New Zealand

FacingtheFuture2The United Nations Environment Programme proposes a Green Economy as an effective response to a number of linked global concerns: income disparity, population growth, green-house gas emissions, and atmospheric and freshwater pollution. Facing the future: towards a green economy for New Zealand suggests that NZ can respond to these issues and achieve economic, social and environmental benefits by becoming a green economy, which is:  low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

A key message of the talk is drawn from the Global Risks 2014 report: “collaborative multi-stakeholder action is required as businesses, governments, or civil society alone do not have the tools and the authority to tackle systemic risks”.

The Royal Society of New Zealand says environmental problems are beginning to threaten social and economic well-being and that New Zealand would benefit from a move to a green economy.

In Facing the future: towards a green economy for New Zealand, the Society highlights research on the resource and consumption challenges facing New Zealand and the rest of the world, and the opportunities for dealing with them. It concludes that New Zealand can have a number of economic, social and environmental gains by accelerating its move to a green economy.

Human consumption growth over the last century has had significant effects on the global environment, such as reduced water quality, loss of biodiversity and a changing climate. These environmental changes are not good for long-term sustainability and well-being. The panel agrees that New Zealand can avoid adverse consequences for the economy, society and the environment if it reconsiders its direction of development.

New Zealand has several targets for reducing national net greenhouse gas emissions, including a 50% reduction by 2050 compared with 1990. However, recent modelling by the Ministry for the Environment indicates that by 2040 New Zealand’s net GHG emissions are expected to be 51% higher than the 1990 baseline.

A green economy is defined by the United Nations Environment Programme as being resource efficient, low carbon and socially inclusive. The Society says New Zealand is well positioned to become a green economy with its many natural advantages, such as extensive renewable energy sources. We also have many opportunities to increase our resource efficiency, which means improved productivity. Many businesses and organisations are already aiming for sustainability. Communities are working together for change, and innovators and entrepreneurs are ready to grasp the opportunities of a greener economy.

The paper identifies a number of barriers that need to be overcome, such as the perception there are trade-offs between being economically competitive and being sustainable, and that a green economy might lead to a lower standard of living.  Raqher, there is growing recognition of alternative indicators better suited than GDP for capturing the quality, quantity and sustainability of economic activity.

The aim of the paper is to encourage the discussions that will help shape a sustainable future. Becoming a green economy will require action and collaboration across all sectors of society. It’s good that we are already seeing this happen.

The paper was authored by a Royal Society of New Zealand panel chaired by Emeritus Professor Gerry Carrington FRSNZ. The Panel members were: Professor Geoff Austin FRSNZ, Dr Sea Rotmann, Professor Ralph Sims CRSNZ, Dr Janet Stephenson, Professor John Boys FRSNZ, Professor Les Oxley FRSNZ, and Dame Anne Salmond CBE FRSNZ.

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