One of the UK’s most influential newspapers, The Guardian, carries a stinging attack under the title New Zealand was a friend to Middle Earth, but it’s no friend of the earth. It damns us for our abject failure to live up to the clean, green image we sell ourselves on. Here are the main points:
…my prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community goes to New Zealand, a country that sells itself round the world as “clean and green”…
…if you read the small print of what New Zealand has actually promised, it is a measly 50% in emissions by 2050 something even the US can trump.
Where do all these emissions come from? New Zealand turns out to be mining ever more filthy brown coal to burn in its power stations [actually, we mostly export our coal to China for steel production and import coal from Indonesia to burn]. It has the world’s third highest rate of car ownership. And, with more cows than people, the country’s increasingly intensive agricultural sector is responsible for approaching half the greenhouse gas emissions….
…the country’s minister in charge of climate negotiations, Tim Groser, has been busy reassuring his compatriots that “we would not try to be ‘leaders’ in climate change.”
This is not just political spin. It is also commercial greenwash. New Zealand trades on its greenness to promote its two big industries: tourism and dairy exports. Groser says his country’s access to American markets for its produce is based on its positive environmental image. The government’s national marketing strategy is underpinned by a survey showing that tourism would be reduced by 68% if the country lost its prized “clean, green image”, and even international purchases of its dairy products could halve.
The trouble is, on the climate change front at least, that green image increasingly defies reality.
Our failure to do our part and our hyprocrisy will come back to bite us – environmentally and economically (not that those two can ever be separated). If we want to continue to sell our exports and our tourism on an enviornmental brand we need to stay walking the talk. We need to start with a meaningful ETS, not National’s one that won’t reduce emissions and will subsidise polluters at the expense of ordinary Kiwis.