Sustainability, Climate Change, Carbon Neutral…
I have noticed of late there are many people in New Zealand and around the world starting ‘a conversation’, shouting, protesting and no doubt tweeting, blogging and posting about sustainability and climate change. This is something I myself have being mulling over.
When I think about a sustainable lifestyle, some very idealistic images drift into my imagination, such as a small land holding with bountiful gardens and orchards, fat lazy cows munching on grass, chickens clucking, independent power and water supplies and a snug log cabin. Then the practicalities start to cascade in, what if I want a holiday? Who will look after the cows? What if I am a hopeless gardener and the crops wither and die? Who is going to kill the chicken for dinner? At this point a realise, I actually like much of my modern lifestyle and perhaps sustainability is about maintaining that, in a way that has less impact on our ecological environment.
When I researched definitions of sustainability for this article I found there are quite a few. The Concise Oxford definition of sustainability is nice and simple ‘the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.’
Wikipedia’s definition resonated as it appears to be reflected in many of the policy initiatives currently being developed and implemented. ‘Sustainability is the process of people maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.’
I see this definition as a nice touchstone when trying to understand and evaluate the relevance or value of ideas, views and initiatives around sustainability.
For me there is much about this topic that is overwhelming, for example the debate around whether climate change is real and if so the implications? What is a sustainable energy source and why is it considered sustainable? What are the impacts of moving from fossil fuels to sustainable energy? Is the manufacture and running of an electric car really more sustainable than a petrol or diesel fuelled vehicle? Which is better road or rail? Will eating less meat really make a difference? Trying to make sense of all this does my head in! Once my eyes have stopped spinning around in the back of my head there are some realities which help crystallise what’s happening right now.
Sustainability concepts and beliefs are becoming deeply embedded in our political, economic and social structures. The Coalition Government’s Wellness Budget has sustainability and a response to climate change as key themes: …the Government is committed to moving New Zealand towards becoming a low-emissions economy. This means having the courage to do the long-term planning required to ensure workers, businesses and communities are supported as we move away from fossil fuels and towards a low-carbon future… New Zealand’s success depends on an economy that is both environmentally sustainable and improves the well being of our people.
The Government’s agreed climate change framework has a focus on:
- Leadership at home and internationally
- A productive, sustainable and climate-resilient economy
- A just and inclusive society.
The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill is due to be enacted later this year. The amendment bill will do four key things:
- Set a new greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to: Reduce all greenhouse gases (except biogenic methane) to net zero by 2050, and reduce emissions of biogenic methane within the range of 24–47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050 including to 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030.
- Set a series of emissions budgets to act as stepping stones towards the long-term target.
- Require the Government to develop and implement policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
- Establish a new, independent Climate Change Commission to provide expert advice and monitoring to help keep successive governments on track to meeting long-term goals.
There is a societal change in values towards sustainability and this is particularly noticeable in our younger generation.
Change is happening and it is happening now. The Wellness Budget includes:
- $1 billion dollars on improving rail, plus 300million from the Regional Development Fund.
- $27 million to set up the National New Energy Development Centre.
- $20 million over four years to establish a new science research fund for cutting-edge energy technology.
- $229.2 for projects to protect and restore at-risk waterways and wetlands and provide support for farmers and growers to use their land more sustainably.
- $18 million over four years to continue the Bio-resource Processing Alliance and Product Accelerator.
- $183.8 million in operating for The One Billion Trees Programme.
It is time for business to get strategic by understanding what is happening, the impact on their industry and the implications in order to prepare a deliberate response. A review of the business mission and values may be good starting point to ensure there is alignment with the changes occurring and then on to the strategy and development of a response.
One obvious issue, which will be relevant for many businesses is transport, whether it is the transportation of goods or your people. There will need to be decisions made on the move to low emission transport. It is not a question of if but when.
I’m interested to hear your stories on how your business is responding to sustainability and climate change, what are your experiences of the challenges and the benefits?