MEDIA RELEASE: True sustainability not green growth

This year’s Yale University environmental performance index ranks New Zealand 14th out of 146 countries worldwide, slipping from first place in 2006.

Geoff Ross, co-founder of green growth business lobby group Pure Advantage says New Zealand relies heavily on its clean, green brand, but its track record shows the country is vulnerable. A report released this week by the group, estimates global green growth is potentially worth $6 trillion a year, and creates better paying jobs, health improvements and protects the environment. A spokesperson for Climate Justice Taranaki, Emily Bailey, says “while the report is useful in its analysis of our situation and a serious wake-up call for New Zealand industry, it proposes the wrong solutions”.

The report states “NZ’s emissions are the fifth highest per capita in the OECD [and] our emissions have increased 23% since 1990.” [1] We have “the world’s third highest rate of car ownership. Our transport sector is inefficient and … between 1990 and 2006, total transport emissions increased by a shocking 64% [with] only 2.5% of trips made by public transport… [for which funding] will be cut from an already low 1.8% of the current land transport budget to 0.7% by 2021.” [2]The report says that “New Zealand’s housing stock is notoriously difficult to heat [and] equates to where the Scandinavians were in the 1960s” [3] and that “farmed livestock accounts for 95% of the methane emissions in NZ’s greenhouse gas profile.” Of particular interest, given the current criticism of the Taranaki Regional Council, the report reminds us that “the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s 2010 report on environmental monitoring found NZ lacks reliable and independent ‘state of the environment’ reporting.” [4] Her ‘Environment for NZ 2007’ report concluded “it is the very aspects of New Zealand’s environment that underpin our economic wealth through tourism and primary production.”

It is essential for New Zealand’s economy to be more environmentally friendly if it wants to survive the coming oil shortages and global financial collapse. Consumers are increasingly opting for greener products made in fair workplaces not just because they are better for those reasons but because they make sense economically. A sustainable economy might cost more to set up but it will last longer because longterm planning and investment that regenerates its environment will eliminate ‘waste’ and put skills and ‘profit’ back into the local community.

It is a shame then to see Pure Advantage continuing promotion of intensive farming practices (alongside token research to reduce methane or nitrous oxide emissions). This is pointless if the farming sector still relies on fossil-fuel based fertilisers and sprays, heavy machinery and reduced employment, energy-intensive transportation and processing, and the dumping of harmful wastes. Biotechnology and biofuel are no answer as they still rely on exploitation of natural resources. The proposed “Water Management” just means theft, privatisation and environmental degradation. The aquaculture they promote is a disaster for marine ecosystems. The private electric car on a large scale again relies on exploiting finite natural resources.”

The Pure Advantage business leaders group has emerged from a small group of investors called The Cleantech group, a global business movement, cleantech, which is not all about community windfarms, permaculture and solar panels. It’s about turning climate change concerns into public acceptance and public funding for their private business ventures. It is a way of turning their self-induced financial and ecological crises into a driver of more unsustainable economic growth and legitimation.

“While green growth lobby groups can encourage industry to transition to sustainable economies,  we must not lose sight of what sustainability truly means: longterm well-being for communities by using natural resources and each other’s assistance in a way that does not harm or deplete” said Climate Justice Taranaki’s Emily Bailey.

“In this current climate of peak oil and the inevitable collapse of capitalism, according to many economic commentators such as Dr Nicole Foss, our very idea of a global economy needs drastic rethinking. Increased demand for petroleum for more transportation, more production and more energy has lead to more polluting, more dangerous extraction techniques and leaves us hooked to a dead-end technology, literally. Our economy is suicidal. Unlimited growth is unsustainable.”

“A better solution, a real solution would be to transition our society to a fossil-fuel free one: recycling rich organic farm ‘waste’ and working within natural ecosystem controls. A just solution would mean dismantling the corrupt, top-down power structures that maintain wealth for the few and reinstating decentralised, community-controlled economies. If we care about the future of our children and grandchildren then we have to set them up with a truly sustainable future.” concluded Bailey.
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NOTES

[1] The New Zealand Institute. A Report Card of New Zealand’s Social, Economic and Environmental Wellbeing. Measuring New Zealand’s Performance so We Can Improve It. NZ ahead. The New Zealand Institute, Oct. 2011. Web. 04 Mar. 2012. <http://www.nzinstitute.org/index.php/nzahead/&gt;.

[2] The Campaign For Better Transport. “Submission on the Government Policy Statement 2012” The Campaign For Better Transport. The Campaign For Better Transport, 18 May 2011. Web. 06 Mar. 2012. <http://www.bettertransport.org.nz/2011/05/submission-on-the-government-policystatement-2012/&gt;.

[3] Prof Robert Vale, Victoria University cited in NZBCSD (Page 4), New Zealand Business Council For Sustainable Development. Better Performing Homes for New Zealanders: Making It Happen. Auckland: New Zealand Business Council For Sustainable Development, 2008. PDF.

[4] Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. How Clean Is New Zealand? Measuring and Reporting on the Health of Our Environment. Wellington: Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Apr. 2010. PDF.

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