NRT: Breaking our word on the environment

Written By: - Date published: 2:20 pm, May 29th, 2012 - 7 comments
Categories: Conservation, disaster, International - Tags: ,

No Right Turn on the World Wildlife Fund report…

Twenty years ago, New Zealand attended the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. While there, we signed up to the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the “Agenda 21” sustainable development plan, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in the process making a host of promises on the environment. Twenty years on, WWF is examining whether we have kept those promises [PDF].Their assessment is not good:

A World Wildlife Fund report claims New Zealand has failed to meet any of the major commitments agreed to at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 20 years ago.New Zealand was among 178 countries at the summit which committed to cutting greenhouse gas emission, improving water quality and protecting biodiversity.

However the Beyond Rio report, which document progress since the summit, said New Zealand has little to be proud of.

To give just a few examples:

  • In 1992, we promised to limit greenhouse gas emissions – a promise we reaffirmed in Kyoto in 1997. We then did nothing for two decades while they increased (now we have an ETS, but it excludes our biggest polluters – farmers – while subsidising the rest).
  • In 1992, we promised to preserve our lakes and rivers and protect them from pollution. We then did nothing, and allowed the dairy boom to turn them into open sewers.
  • In 1992 we promised to conserve our native biodiversity. We then did nothing to do so, with the result that the number of threatened or at risk species has quadrupled in the last decade.
  • In 1992 we promised to sustainably manage our fisheries. We then set fishing quotas too high, and according to industry lobbying rather than the science. The result has been a collapse of important fisheries, and a rise in the number of species that are known to be over-exploited.

Looking at this record, I really wonder why anyone accepts our word on anything. As a country, we are cheats and liars, and our promises are worthless. We “commit”, then we do nothing, while wearing that worthless commitment like its some sort of badge of honour. As a small country, with a mana-based foreign policy, the importance of keeping our word on the international stage should be paramount. We need to start living up to these commitments. And that means holding politicians to account for doing so.

7 comments on “NRT: Breaking our word on the environment”


    Last year I opined on this. I have long thought that the reputation of New Zealand in environmental issues has been fading and the report recently released about our failings is merely proof of what many, including myself, and many others who read this have known for yonks.

    Our bigger questions should be, WHAT are we going to do about it and WHEN?

    • NickS 1.1

      Nothing, because it risks alienating the loud-mouthed-douche rural voting blocks and WTO rules make it very difficult for our trading partners to set up tariffs to target stupid behaviour on our part. Plus the dairy block seems to think European consumers are stupid and will fall for the old lie of “green and clean”, despite the counter evidence.

    • jimgreen 1.2

      What we can do is have native habitat everywhere possible through the likes of guerilla planting disused land. A cabbage tree can get pretty big in a short time so even if it got chopped down in ten years through development (cabbage tree boats?) it still might make it to breeding age. I look forward to seeing my handiwork in a decade or two.

      • Jimmie 1.2.1

        You can come and guerilla plant a few nice rimu trees in my garden any time you like….don’t mind the odd cabbage tree as well

  2. Dr Terry 2

    First, we must ensure that the Greens (who cooperate with Government on environmental policy) are providing the heavy push needed. I am waiting to hear views from the Green Party on this vital issue.

  3. Kiwi Pete 3

    I just hope the Government doesn’t send anyone to the next Earth Summit. Since they have no intention of honouring any pledges made there it would be a complete waste of money.

    Far better to spend the money on a big 2 page spread in the Guardian proclaiming ‘New Zealand – Clean and Green’ and hope there’s still a few muppets over in the UK that believe everything they read.

  4. The bullet was well and truly travelling down the barrel in 1992, we have been holding the gun to our own heads for the past 10,000 years, we will eat and burn everything on this rock before we go, and that was set in stone the day we left the cave and dug our first row of carrots. The experiment is about over.
    We are ‘lucky’ enough to have front row seats.

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