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Another damning environmental report, this time from Pure Advantage

Written by Esther Goh, from Idealog 11th June 2012:

Our international branding may rely primarily on on portraying our environment and economy as 100% Pure, but we’re failing our own branding test across a range of key environmental tests.

Pure Advantage, the nonprofit that boasts the likes of business leaders Geoff Ross, Rob Fyfe, Chris Liddell and Phillip Mills as trustees, released a report today detailing how New Zealand is losing green ground.

According to  New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race (click here for full PDF), we’re quietly slipping down the rankings on just about every environmental and economic performance indicator out there. New Zealand has fallen from first to 14th on Yale University’s environmental performance index, our CO2 emissions per capita are the fifth highest in the OECD and our housing stock is among the coldest and least efficient. Add to that our declining water quality and high extinction rate of biodiversity and it’s a grim picture indeed.

New Zealand is far from the only country facing these challenges and some government initiatives are underway, but all over the world, countries are opting to invest in green development.

However, Pure Advantage trustee Sir Stephen Tindall said the first steps needed to be initiated by industry.

He said global green growth was potentially worth NZ$6 trillion a year and represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for New Zealand to improve its economy for the better.

Focusing on the rewards

Much of the debate in New Zealand over green growth to date has focused on the downside, the report concludes: costs and obligations, for example.

What’s missing from the discussion are the benefits of green growth and its role in a pathway to create sustainable wealth.

Pros the report points to include:

•    Greater production efficiency
•    Increased income from trade/tourism
•    Enhanced economic strength and resilience (a more diverse economy, high-value/knowledge-based exports and industries; a better trade balance)
•    Reduced/avoided costs of importing fossil fuels
•    Reduced/avoided costs of maintaining and expanding fossil fuel-based infrastructure

And it says New Zealand already has several key advantages in the pursuit of green growth, such as an abundance of energy generation sources, top-notch knowledge of agriculture and forestry, the developed world’s first free trade agreement with China, an attractive operational base for multinationals thanks to political stability, business-friendly regulation and potential energy security from renewable sources, plus that established clean, green brand.

The report is the first key piece of research Pure Advantage has released on key green growth trends and challenges and is a precursor to a macroeconomic review commissioned to identify key high-value green growth opportunities due to be released in the third quarter of 2012.

The document follows WWF’s Beyond Rio report, released a fortnight ago, which highlighted New Zealand’s poor record on the environment since the Earth Summit in 1992.

What they’re saying

Reaction so far has been swift and congratulatory.

WWF spokesperson Peter Hardstaff said WWF hoped the report would help kickstart collaboration between government, business and society towards a greener economy.

“The potential economic gains from low carbon development are too significant to be ignored. A 2009 paper by PricewaterhouseCoopers for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise estimated that, with the right policies, the clean technology sector in New Zealand could be worth between NZ$7.5 billion and NZ$22 billion to the economy by 2015.”

Greenpeace New Zealand chief policy advisor Nathan Argent said green business was big business.

“New Zealand’s government and businesses need to recognise that the global green growth train is about to leave the station without us,” he said.

And the New Zealand Wind Energy Association (NZWEA) chimed in with a statement on the role of renewable energy in a low-carbon future.

“We estimate that at least that 20 percent of New Zealand’s electricity will come from wind by 2030,” said chief executive Eric Pyle.

“In New Zealand, we are already seeing examples of companies developing skills and expertise here and exporting these off-shore. We are already recognised internationally for our expertise in developing and maintaining high-performing wind farms. Other companies are developing high-tech, niche products for the wind industry.

“The potential for New Zealand to generate some real wealth from green growth in the wind industry is there – we now need to focus on how best to harness it.”

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