I’m looking forward to seeing what the Pure Advantage group come up with later today when they launch their campaign “to deliver world-leading improvements to our economy, our environmental performance and the living standards of all New Zealanders”.
I suspect it will be considerably more innovative and better informed than what we saw earlier this week from the government-appointed Green Growth Advisory Group . Their discussion paper makes some claims about the government’s ‘growth agenda’ that are plain wrong; it misses the point about some fairly fundamental issues around making the transition to a low carbon economy; and appears ill-informed about key parts of the economy, notably the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) sector.
We are told for example that ‘Natural capital – natural resources and ecological systems that provide services to society – is a core consideration in all policy making’. Really? Even the policies that involve a huge investment into mineral extraction, massive roading projects, a preference for urban sprawl rather than compact urban form?
The document notes that economies ‘will shift to more sustainable practices’, and that our ability to ‘anticipate and respond appropriately to these changes’ is of importance. It is clearly news to the authors that ‘economies’ including high-value markets like Europe, North America and Japan are already making the shift, and New Zealand is proving to be a very slow follower instead of fulfilling our potential role as leader by example.
The paper seriously understates the economic risk posed by our failure to live up to our ‘clean and green’ brand, despite acknowledging the importance of authenticity (i.e. no greenwash!) and that our environmental stewardship is already under scrutiny internationally.
We are encouraged to reduce our GHG emissions intensity, but not our emissions in absolute terms. There is no recognition that the government has an enormous ability to influence the behaviour of economic players by rewarding those who are getting real about sustainability with government supply contracts – the existing approach to procurement, having sustainability as one ‘tick box’ along with many others, is just inadequate.
The assumptions made about SMEs, and the ‘advice’ offered to them, reflects how badly out of touch this government is with the sector, where a lot of work is already being done that is motivated by a very clear understanding of the imperatives to move to a more sustainable footing. (Maybe the government’s failure to have even one member attend the recent Small Business summit is symptomatic of this lack of engagement.)