Posted by: nzydmahara | December 10, 2009

The Business of Climate Change – who really bears the burden?

So here we sit; two young Kiwis at the heart of the United Nations Climate Negotiations in Copenhagen. More than being just a beehive of policy wonks and bureaucrats however, it is also a centre for hundreds of companies and governments from all over the world to showcase innovative, low-carbon solutions to climate change. It really is the new frontier of the global marketplace.
Yet, amidst all this the New Zealand government is unfortunately acting like the world is not changing. In the negotiations, it is pushing for weak emissions reduction targets, working to offload the burden of action onto poorer countries, and publishing inflated and misleading figures on the costs of adaptation.

Contrary to the traditional conservative business rhetoric, we believe these actions are compromising our future economic integrity and prosperity, let alone our environmental and social wellbeing. There are several reasons this is the case. Firstly, by setting low emission reduction targets we’re failing to create the necessity to innovate. This makes us uncompetitive as we head into an increasingly carbon constrained world economy. Secondly, we’re failing to foster development of the next generation of low-carbon technologies that are, and will continue to be, massive areas of growth. Lastly, we’re compromising our clean green brand of 100% Pure, and any business worth their salt protects their brand fiercely.

Fundamentally, we believe that the stance being taken by the New Zealand Government is akin to the protectionist policies of earlier years. It only serves to insulate us from the realities of a changing global marketplace and pushes the burden of adaptation from today’s business on to tomorrows. In the mid to long term, this will compromise the New Zealand economy as it is forced to buy low-carbon technology and skills from overseas, rather than becoming a net exporter. We’d like to remind John Key that ‘fast followers’ still come second.

The truth is high legally binding emission reduction targets are not anywhere near the death-wish some people make them out to be. Those who claim that New Zealand is a special case because of its high agricultural emissions fail to recognise two key points. Firstly, that bold commitments will provide us with the incentive to develop technologies that will be valuable the around the world in the years to come. And secondly, that we have already started making progress towards reducing our agricultural emissions. An Agresearch trial farm in Waikato has preliminary results showing a 20% reduction in their carbon footprint. This is supported by further research in the Waikato, oftentimes showing 12-15% reductions with no significant impact on farm profitability. This progress highlights that higher emission reduction targets are within our reach.

We believe that with the right policies New Zealand has the potential to leverage our strengths (high education, great brand and entrepreneurial culture) to develop a knowledge economy based around low carbon and sustainable solutions. But to take advantage of this in an increasingly carbon constrained world economy we need:
• Strong binding (minimum 30-40% by 2020) commitments for emissions reductions;
• Supportive governmental policies that actively encourage emission reductions, and
• Financial and institutional support for research and development of sustainable technologies and businesses.

New Zealand has always been a home of innovation. Seeing the opportunities that are being showcased here in Copenhagen, we know New Zealand has something to add. As budding young entrepreneurs we see the opportunities to lead in a range of industries are abundant, but at risk of passing us by.

New Zealand can be at the forefront of low-carbon business development which would only further our position as world leading innovators. But without solid commitment now, we risk passing up these opportunities and laying the burden of change on future generations.

Mahara Inglis and Oliver Bruce


  1. Great blog. The only remaining question is when our government will start listening. Europe have already got a head start, so we’d better get moving sooner rather than later.

  2. Too true e hoa! join our facebook group: tuanuku and check out our website and help us build a peoples movement to do just that!

    regards Mike Smith

  3. well put! for more on agricultural innovation go to

  4. Glad to see the debate taking place. Here in Sydney, the debate is heavily influenced by global warming deniers. I have fairly or unfairly equated this to be a strong desire to not change behaviour, as this may incur a cost.

    It is my view that both Australia and NZ appear to be shirking their responsibility as the leading developed nations in the pacific. There is technology already available to help us adapt to a new more responsible way of living. Solar power and the capture and recycling of grey water, improved public transport, requiring companies with fleet cars to use zero to low emission vehicles. Simple measure are already available adopting these practices and putting more re sourcing into science and technology can only improve our current status.

    The impact of global warming is undeniably apparent, unfortunately it is our Pacific neighbours who are already the most severely affected. As we continue to barter with this planets future. we are failing our responsibility as neighbours, as world citizens and as the care takers for our children’s futures.

    There is only One World, there is no second world or third world. What we do, the choices we make, impact globally and in turn affect every organism on this planet.

    Thank you both for initiating this debate.


  5. Thank you. That was well written too.

    I just looked at (See Nigel’s reply above) and find its a green party thing. A sceptic could say ‘ they would say that, wouldn’t they?)
    Well, Bruce Wills used to be a mainstream banker for goodness sake!

    I regularly enjoy John Morgan articles in the DomPost (he writes well too) around these sorts of issues.
    The point is, somewhat surprisingly, that some farmers are changing the way they farm because let alone our ‘environmental and social well being’ it has a dramatic effect on their profitability.

    There is a way forward……

  6. Ka mau te wehi korua. He korero whakahirahira tenei kia kite ai i te huarahi hei whaioranga mo tatou katoa. Kia kaha ra e tauawhiawhi ana i a Rangi raua ko Papa kia tu pakari ai mo nga rautau ki te haere mai.
    Nga manaakitanga

  7. […] Late yesterday, I was having dinner with our former PM, Helen Clark, here as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  The UNDP is taking a close interest in a number of issues, principally the financing of developing economies as they move away from fossil fuels.  It was great to catch up with Helen.  Before dinner, I introduced her to Oliver Bruce, a kiwi studying in the US who is here with one of the youth delegations.  Oliver and Mahara Inglis, a member of the NZ Youth delegation, posted a great blog last week . […]

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