What’s on the cards for climate, waste and water in 2021? Here’s what you need to know.

By Fiona Stephenson

Get up to speed on emerging themes in the urgent issues of our time: climate, the circular economy and regenerative nature (including water). Our programme leads in each of these areas reveal what your business needs to know to help you get ahead.

Climate Action

Use the Climate Action Toolbox to help reduce your emissions.

Phil Jones, SBN’s lead on Climate Action, says:

“As we enter a new decade, there’s an urgent need to make the 2020s the decade for climate action.

New Zealand’s emissions remain stubbornly high, even growing in some areas, such as transport. The science tells us we need to reduce our emissions by at least 50% by 2030.

The good news is that the last year has seen the development of some critical climate action foundations – the Zero Carbon Act and the establishment of the Climate Change Commission, much-needed strengthening of the Emissions Trading Scheme, and the introduction of mandatory climate risk reporting for large financial organisations.

This year will be pivotal, with the setting of the emission budgets and reduction plan by the government by the end of the year, based on advice from the Climate Change Commission. (Make sure your voice is heard when the draft budget and plans are released for consultation next week!)

All of New Zealand needs to be involved in this effort – government will provide the conditions (regulations and incentives) which will enable individuals and businesses to take the necessary actions.

In the government plan, we should expect to see a very strong focus on road transport, especially accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles and a shift from private cars to more public, shared and active transport (especially in our cities). We should also see a transition away from the burning of coal for industrial heating and elsewhere.  Reducing our agricultural emissions will be our other major challenge. In the short-term, freshwater reforms and encouraging best practice to be adopted by more farmers, through the He Waka Eke Noa action plan, should begin to make a difference. Longer-term, new technologies and changing consumer preferences, here and overseas, are likely to have an increasing influence.

Business will have a key role to play, building on the good work started by those involved in the Climate Leaders Coalition. The financial sector, through initiatives like the Sustainable Finance Forum’s Roadmap for Action, is also beginning to play a crucial role in supporting the transition. Our collective challenge will be to normalise the idea of climate action by every business, including our hard-working small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

SBN is focusing on helping these SMEs. In partnership with EECA, Waka Kotahi, NZ Trade & Enterprise, BNZ, Meridian Energy and the Ministry of Innovation, Business and Enterprise, we are developing a climate action toolkit to make it easy for many more SMEs to get started on their climate action journey. The toolkit will be launched towards the end of March this year, and will be hosted on the business.govt.nz site. Look out for more in the next few months!

The Covid legacy will continue to provide strong headwinds for several years. But there is an undoubted opportunity to ‘build forward better’ with climate resilience at its core.”


Go Circular

James Griffin, SBN’s Circular Economy lead, says:

“A Covid-impacted global economy with a need to reduce carbon emissions will accelerate momentum towards a circular economy.

Increased supply chain uncertainty and costs mean businesses will look to maximise the value of the materials and assets already in use. Remanufacture and repair models will increasingly emerge. This is coupled with a growing customer awareness and resistance to a ‘throwaway’ single use culture.

As businesses increase efforts to reduce carbon emissions, it will become apparent that a circular economy approach to the way we produce, use and dispose of physical products needs to be adopted on top of elements such as transport and heating.

Waste is increasingly seen as unacceptable by customers, putting pressure on suppliers to have mechanics in place to design waste out of the system. The number of voluntary product stewardship schemes will continue to increase (our product stewardship website, SBNproductstewardship.org.nz, currently has 66 schemes listed) while mandatory product stewardship schemes will continue to be designed for imminent implementation.

As well as mandatory product stewardship, changes to the waste levy are another legislative level that will motivate businesses to minimise materials being sent to landfill.

A focus on reducing the amount of plastics entering our natural environment will continue. New Zealand will be able to process more of our own plastic waste and reuse models will continue to grow.

The SBN Go Circular 2025 programme and associated resources, to be launched in 2021, will play a fundamental role in helping NZ businesses navigate the challenges and opportunities faced in the move towards a low carbon circular economy.”


Regenerative Nature and Water

Pieter Tuinder, SBN’s Regenerative Nature/Water lead says:

“Our waterways and nature are in urgent need of restoration and protection, and this need is more urgent than ever with climate change and the increasing volatility and stress on our natural systems.  Auckland’s worst drought occurred in 2020 as well as record flooding in Northland, Napier and other areas.

In the Aotearoa context, the $1.245 billion being invested in Jobs for Nature as a Covid-19 response is providing much needed support for our natural environment as well as creating nature jobs. Waterway restoration and protection is receiving significant funding this year with over $70 million being invested in 19 projects by Government ($36 million), councils and others. SBN is working with key government agencies to support this programme through strategic investment with community partners on water restoration projects across Aotearoa.

Planting trees, particularly natives, is a crucial response to environmental pressures. There is also increasing recognition of the importance of urban forests and the strong link between wellbeing and connection to nature. This year presents an opportunity to work collaboratively to grow our urban forests, particularly in areas like South Auckland which currently have low urban forest cover.”