NZ: Low-carbon precincts named a top priority for climate action

Major companies representing 36 per cent of New Zealand’s private sector GDP will prioritise the development of low carbon precincts and increasing energy efficiency as part of post-Paris actions to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change.

They have also called on the central government to ensure cross-party support for a business-led transition to a low carbon-economy.

BusinessNZ’s Major Companies Group and Sustainable Business Council issued the call as part of a Business Brief on Climate Change released this week. The brief sets out the groups’ agenda for leading the transition to a low-carbon economy and maps out priority areas for increasing resilience and mitigating climate change impacts.

The brief also calls for the government to negotiate “an ambitious, inclusive post-2020 global climate agreement” at COP21 in Paris next month.

BusinessNZ also simultaneously released the results of its Climate Survey, which showed that two-thirds of companies already have emissions reduction targets in place, 61 per cent have initiatives underway to reduce their emissions and 52 per cent are already reporting emissions using at least one independent accreditation or reporting framework.

“The survey demonstrates there’s strong momentum among businesses to address climate change,” Sustainable Business Council executive director Penny Nelson said.

It showed that 85 per cent of activity firms were undertaking on climate change sat within their own operations, including working with customers and through supply chains. Initiatives include improving energy efficiency, transport efficiency, waste reduction, R&D investment, green building and providing customer advice.

In terms of impacts, 49 per cent saw the potential for positive impacts regarding increased demand for products and services that assist customers to mitigate or adapt to climate change. The transport and professional sectors in particular saw this as a likely benefit.

Forty-eight per cent also said there would be positive impacts in terms of their investment in new technology and equipment. Telcos, manufacturers and retailers in particular reported they anticipated making changes to how they purchased new technology, including having to specify energy efficiency more often.

Several also identified potential advantages around avoided costs and increased competitive advantage.

The survey found that many respondents “still find it hard to quantify the potential value from longer-term thinking about climate change impact with the business benefits of resource efficiency, risk mitigation and other avoided costs”.

While none of the respondents were from the property or building sectors, Ms Nelson said that many SBC and MCG members leased buildings or commissioned new buildings, and so would be “setting expectations within those sectors”.

“A range of our members based around Auckland airport are involved in working together as a precinct – they have some ambitious work in train to turn it into a sustainable precinct,” she said.

Auckland Council is also a strategic partner so SBC is connecting with the Wynyard Quarter development, she said, and some of the members also have big builds coming up, such as Waitemata DHB, and “want to do interesting things”.

The SBC also has among its members some of the key consultancies who work in the infrastructural sector, including AECOM, Beca, GHD and Siemens, and the organisation is aligned with the NZ Green Building Council.

In terms of COP21, business wants to see “leadership, clarity of direction, ambition and a unified commitment at a global and national level”.

“Beyond Paris, businesses would like to see cross party agreement on New Zealand’s approach to climate change, sustainable government procurement, transport initiatives and a greater focus on adaptation,” the survey report said.

Ms Nelson said business in NZ strongly supports the development of an ambitious global climate agreement, and also wants to see government build on the strong existing support for the Emissions Trading Scheme with business at the table as it is developed further.

“Business leaders have seen an opportunity to work together to accelerate and scale up the work already taking place to reduce emissions,” she said.

Businesses are aware there is no other choice, she said, with extreme weather events becoming more prevalent and set to impact the agricultural sector that makes up a substantial proportion of the nation’s economy.

Rising temperatures are expected to impact the health of the community – including employees – and influence the amount of water available for use. It will also impact the nation’s energy supply.

“Economic growth must decouple from emissions growth if we want the planet to stop warming,” Ms Nelson said.

“In the long-term, low-emission growth isn’t going to be enough. The planet will continue to warm as long as we are emitting more than we can capture and store.”

She said business leaders were responding by exploring the long-term systemic changes NZ needs to make to steer towards a net zero emissions economy.

The brief identifies four key areas the business sector will be focusing on between now and 2020:

  • Low-emission transport
  • Energy efficiency
  • Improving urban infrastructure
  • Business leadership

See the BusinessNZ Climate Brief

This story was published with permission from The Fifth Estate.

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