The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has pledged that her small nation will be the first in the world to wipe out its contribution to climate change, The Independent reported this week (February 15).
Ms Clark made the pledge in a speech saying she believed New Zealand could aim to be the first nation to be truly sustainable in economy, society, the environment, and nationhood.
New Zealand could aspire to be carbon neutral in its economy and way of life, she said.
Clean, green image Besides helping to reverse climate change, tidying up New Zealand’s clean green image could help offset the potential public image problem New Zealand produce could get in the UK and Europe as popular opposition grows to food which has clocked up big food miles.
Prior to Christmas she said that unless New Zealand was seen to be going the extra mile on sustainability, it ran the risk of being labelled as unsustainable producers and major carbon emitters just trying to get produce to overseas markets, she said.
Fears are that UK and European moves at organisational, business and government level to get tough on air freighted food as a major source of carbon emissions could impact on New Zealand’s food export industry, including New Zealand’s organic exports.
Tesco UK supermarket giant Tesco plans to show consumers the amount of carbon emitted during the production, transport and consumption of each of the 70,000 different products it sells. The UK Soil Association, is considering a range of measures to help combat climate change, including a possible ban on air-freighted organic food.
The Soil Association, as an independent certification body, said it will introduce through its standards whatever measures are deemed appropriate — regardless of any parallel actions taken by the British Government or the European Union.
The Association said there was strong demand, from the public and of its many licensees, to reduce food miles.
Most NZ food exports go to the UK by sea, not air freight, so the amount of greenhouse gases is actually small.
Organic low energy farming NZ Soil and Health Association spokesman Steffan Browning says organic farming offers solutions to the current food miles debate and leads the way in low energy farming. It would help New Zealand reach its carbon neutral targets, he said.
Organic production uses much less energy than conventional farming, increases carbon sequestration and has much lower externalised environmental costs.
Government departments to act now The government also announced this week that the 39 core public service departments would begin immediate work to achieve carbon neutrality as part of the government’s push to sustainability.
Core public service departments would start reducing emissions now, with six agencies - the Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Economic Development, Inland Revenue, Department of Conservation and the Treasury - having carbon neutral plans in place by early 2008.
Achieving carbon neutrality from 2012 in the whole of the core public service would demonstrate nationally and internationally New Zealand's commitment to pulling its weight on climate change and creating a sustainable nation, said climate change minister David Parker.
Labour said a number of central government agencies were already cutting emissions by focusing energy efficiency measures, transport and fuel economy and waste minimisation. The Ministry for the Environment used 60 per cent less energy in its buildings compared to similar buildings in Wellington, delivering savings of around $140,000 per year in energy costs.
The Independent said that Ms Clark's zero carbon plans were "bold words" - she had committed New Zealand to more ambitious environmental targets than any other country has been prepared to consider - but that New Zealand had a record of taking a stand on global issues, for instance, the 1984 Labour Government initiated nuclear-free policy, a then world first.
Concern mounts over UK Soil Association food miles plans