'Better off' with green NZ

New Zealand has the time, the resources and the people - all it needs to do is make a start towards a green economy, Emeritus Prof Gerry Carrington, of Dunedin, says.

The country should not be put off by the thought it was ''too hard'', as it could achieve many economic, social and environmental gains by accelerating its move toward a green economy, Prof Carrington, a Royal Society of New Zealand fellow, said.

''It'll make the country better off but we've got to start doing something about it now.''

He was commenting on the release yesterday of a society paper, ''Facing the Future: Toward a Green Economy for New Zealand'', written by a panel of eight that he chaired which included Dr Janet Stephenson, director of the University of Otago's Centre for Sustainability. Prof Carrington, founder of the National Energy Research Institute, also sits on the centre's advisory panel.

A green economy was defined by the United Nations Environment Programme as one that was resource efficient, low carbon and socially inclusive.

Looking at research on the resource and consumptive challenges facing New Zealand and the rest of the world, such as reduced water quality, loss of biodiversity and a changing climate, the panel concluded the ''New Zealand situation was not looking too bad'', Prof Carrington said.

''We've got our own problems but I feel we have lots of options which is a very good starting point.''

There needed to be conversations between people who had the power to make changes, whether it be at local or government level, with those in business and in communities.

The key was finding a way to work together, even if different sectors disagreed with each other. The collaborative process had worked for the Land and Water Forum.

''It's a first step toward developing a vision - one we can share across all divides.''

It could start out with interest groups in different sectors tackling their issues, he said.

''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,'' Prof Carrington said.

There were barriers to overcome, such as the perception of there being a trade-off between being economically competitive and being sustainable and that a green economy might lead to a lower standard of living.

Other panel members were Prof Geoff Austin, Dr Sea Rotmann, Prof Ralph Sims, Prof John Boys, Prof Les Oxley and Dame Anne Salmond.

- rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

The report: a snapshot
• Advantage to New Zealand to make transition to green economy; well positioned to start building on its strengths.
• New Zealand has strong competitive advantage in renewable energy systems, and opportunities to grow low-carbon technologies and services.
• Several New Zealand organisations undertaking initiatives that increase efficiency of resource use.
• Initiatives that support social inclusiveness, such as the land and water forum, show resilient and sustainable solutions and are more likely to be generated by processes that incorporate government, communities, businesses and individuals.
• There is a need to engage public and businesses in creating a vision for a resilient and prosperous future.
• New Zealand should establish strong research collaborations to support green innovation.
• Long-term investments are needed in innovation, trialling new approaches and supporting collaborations in areas such as land use, energy supply and efficiency, transport and housing.
• Path to green economy requires well-informed and stable policy environment, especially for issues at the interface between economic development and environmental protection.

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