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Look to low-carbon

Though the EU, US and China are all aiming to become the world leader in cleantech, the opportunities for New Zealand in a low-carbon world are huge.
Peter Neilson

Cleantech

Ask New Zealand companies responsible for $58 billion in annual sales where policy research should focus in the next year and 92 percent will say: the transition to a low-carbon world economy—and what opportunities it will deliver for business.

These senior executives, members of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, know the country must get ready for a world that puts a price on carbon. They also know we need to mitigate and adapt to lower our own emissions. The major economies are already investing billions in clean technology.

The Global Carbon Network finds as many as 19.5 million energy-related jobs alone could be created by 2020 in the nine countries studied by its collaborating research institutions.

This year’s United Kingdom budget indicates the risk we face of being left behind, and some of policies we could consider in New Zealand. Billions of pounds are being earmarked to support low-carbon sectors, create a new public-private Green Investment Bank, provide new infrastructure for plug-in vehicles, new port facilities to entice offshore wind farm developers, cash and tax breaks for zero-emission vehicles, and provide hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses with insulation and energy-efficiency help.

While the EU, US and China are all aiming to become the world leader in cleantech, the opportunities for New Zealand in a cleantech, low-carbon world are huge:

  • One billion farm animals worldwide could use a methane-reducing inoculation if we can learn how to manipulate the methane-producing capacity of ruminant animals.
  • Hundreds of thousands of hectares of marginal land have potential to become plantation forests or permanent forest sinks. Imagine marginal land, producing organic Manuka honey to be exported by Comvita and others while earning a premium on the carbon sequestered.
  • Franchising systems for measuring and managing emissions, like Landcare-owned Carbon Zero.
  • As the Walmarts and Tescos start putting carbon-content labels on their products, everyone in their supply chain needs to measure and monitor their emissions. The software to do this can be developed anywhere, so why not New Zealand?
  • New Zealand has been selling its geothermal consulting expertise for decades. Why couldn’t we have a New Zealand–based company that developed geothermal opportunities and owned the generation facilities? Our SOEs, engineering consultancies and CRIs would all benefit.

A proposal for a business–government taskforce to identify our major cleantech opportunities may go to cabinet later this year. Let’s hope ministers say yes.