Labour leader Jacinda Ardern recently declared climate change the “‘nuclear free moment’ of this generation”. But on the same day, US President Donald Trump disbanded a federal advisory committee on climate change.
Global environmental issues are becoming ever more pressing. We look at five strategies from the New York Times bestseller Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. How can we apply them in New Zealand?
Drawdown, published in April, takes a holistic view of climate change. It maps, measures and models 100 solutions to climate change.
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Rachel Brown is CEO of the Sustainable Business Network. “We know how to address climate change. The solutions are here. It is now just a matter of adopting them on scale,” she says. “There are multiple solutions. We should shift travel and transport to low carbon alternatives. We need to apply circular thinking to resource use. We must move to lower impact foods. We have to restore water quality. Importantly for SBN, we have to use business to accelerate new ways of working that will restore people and the planet.”
Here’s how five of the broader themes of Drawdown can be applied in New Zealand.
Refrigeration features across New Zealand’s dairy and meat export industries, and onshore in food retail businesses and more.
The 2016 Kigali amendment to the United Nations' 1987 Montreal Protocol agreed a global phase out of climate change-causing hydrofluorocarbons. This is set to begin in 2019. Estimates say it will reduce global warming by almost one degree Fahrenheit.
In the early 1990s, Greenpeace developed low emission hydrocarbon-based GreenFreeze refrigeration technology. Today there are more than 800 million GreenFreeze refrigerators worldwide. That's between 35 and 40 percent of the 100 million domestic refrigerators and freezers produced each year. In New Zealand many major supermarkets and large stores have switched to low emission carbon dioxide based systems.
The latest census from 2013 census found more than half of New Zealanders drive a car to work, with another 11% driving a fleet vehicle. Only 3.3% used the bus and 1.3% the train.
The switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is one way in which we can reduce the climate impact of this while we alter the mix. Other critical changes are better public transport infrastructure, greater use of sustainable biofuels, more safe cycleways to encourage cycling, and meaningful incentives for sharing vehicles.
According to Drawdown, “Compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, emissions drop by 50 percent if an EV’s power comes off the conventional grid. If powered by solar energy, carbon dioxide emissions fall by 95 percent.”
Phil Jones leads SBN projects on transport. “Just under 20% of greenhouse gases in New Zealand come from transport, mostly road,” he says. “Half of that is passenger and light commercial traffic.
“The upfront cost of an EV is currently much higher than a combustion engine vehicle. But the whole life cost is more competitive. Company cars attract fringe benefit tax based on their purchase value. This should be reduced for EVs. That will help increase uptake.”
Food and Waste
Drawdown notes that meat eating is on the rise globally. The report states this amounts to one-fifth of global emissions. Drawdown argues moving to a plant-based diet could cut business-as-usual emissions by 70%.
Rachel says: “It is very important that we focus on eating like the food pyramid has taught us. More fresh fruit and veges, less meat and dairy, and more whole foods and more organics.”
Drawdown also notes a third of all food produced is wasted globally. That waste is responsible for eight per cent of global emissions. Introducing national food waste targets and policies can reduce emissions. It will also help meet future food demand.
Rachel says: “This is critical for New Zealand. Our trade is so focused on agriculture, forests and grazing.”
Drawdown advocates creating new forest plantations on degraded pasture or old mining sites. This is something New Zealand is well placed to pursue.
The Ministry for Primary Industries already offers the Afforestation Grant Scheme. This aims to help establish 15,000 hectares of new forest by 2020.
Other experts stress the value of native forest ecosystems over exotic monocultures like the extensive radiata pine plantations here.
Here in New Zealand, SBN’s Million Metres Streams project is helping restore native plants and trees along the nation’s waterways. Pure Advantage’s Our Forest Future project is another example. It advocates restoring forests to help New Zealand reap the economic and environmental benefits of tackling climate change. This work needs to be massively accelerated and expanded.
Renewable energy sources hold the key to a sustainable New Zealand.
Adding more solar and wind power in to New Zealand’s considerable renewable energy base could enable a 100% renewable grid in New Zealand. And shifting from coal to biomass for heat production in our industrial sector is critical for New Zealand to reduce our emissions.
Rachel says: “There’s a heck of a lot to do across many areas of our economy, but we know what we have to do and how to do it. Our challenge is to bring together the necessary energy, resources and people to accelerate this inevitable transition.