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The debating chamber at parliament. Photo:
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OPINIONBusinessJune 10, 2021

For the sake of business, NZ needs cross-party support on emissions

The debating chamber at parliament. Photo:
The debating chamber at parliament. Photo:

Following the milestone report from the Climate Change Commission, it is imperative that backing for emissions budgets comes from across the political spectrum, write Mike Burrell, executive director of the Sustainable Business Council and Mike Bennetts, Z Energy CEO and convenor of the Climate Leaders Coalition.

Aotearoa is signed up to a pathway toward net zero by 2050. The release of the Climate Change Commission’s final advice is a milestone on this journey to decarbonisation. But it is a first step.

Yesterday’s announcement from the prime minister and minister of climate change called for every part of government to come to the table and commit to urgent action to bring down emissions; from now on, they said, in some way every minister will be a climate change minister.

This should be non-negotiable. As should cross-party support on the emissions budgets. The commission recommends that the government seek this, and the Sustainable Business Council (SBC) and Climate Leaders Coalition (CLC) have advocated strongly in favour of bipartisanship on the budgets.

Before 2050 we will see nine successive governments working on climate action. A clear and enduring pathway, agreed across parliament, will give business the signal they need to make investment decisions that are consistent with a zero carbon future. Those choices are decisions being taken now and will determine whether we meet our 2050 aspirations.

All businesses can strategise, evaluate risk and allocate capital – that’s what they do. What business needs from politicians to do that effectively is as much long-term certainty as possible.

We recognise that there will always be political debate about the policy plan to get us to that 2050 end goal. We live in a democracy – it is entirely appropriate that there is robust debate on the specific policies.

But now is the moment to signal a clear and enduring pathway to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future. Getting emissions budgets passed with cross-party support is key to creating a stable transition for our businesses and communities.

We don’t believe this needs to be controversial – opposition parties, through their support of the Zero Carbon Act, have already given their support for the goal of a net zero New Zealand by 2050. The emissions budgets provide the path to achieve that.

The Zero Carbon Act was passed with near-unanimous support in parliament. Our business leaders played a key role in making that happen. We were able to speak to all parties to confirm that our members are overwhelmingly in support of accelerating a transition to a zero carbon future in which people and nature thrive.

Business leaders represented by the SBC and CLC are committed to taking action to reduce their emissions. They are already leading the charge in bringing down their emissions footprint, reducing waste, and ensuring sustainable workplaces. Some have made operational changes to reduce emissions and unlock efficiencies.

For our part, we will continue to encourage leaders from across the political spectrum to step up and work together to meet the challenge of climate change.

We see scope for a more bipartisan approach on aspects of the response, including cross-party involvement in any new electric vehicle working group. We also believe New Zealand would benefit from a transformational approach to scaling up research and development into the technology required to reduce biogenic emission from agriculture. Given the long lead-in time for this R&D to make its way into practical application, this is another area where a bipartisan approach would be helpful.

Climate action needs to be given priority and financial commitment irrespective of political party, so that nine governments in the future, we’re meeting our targets and our economy and environment is thriving.

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