The climate change discussion

By: Nigel Tutt

Nigel Tutt
Chief Executive of Priority One

Readers may have noted, or even delved into if they have more time on their hands, the recent draft advice released from the Climate Commission. It has occupied a fair amount of media and political space in recent weeks and recommends some big changes.

The area of environmental sustainability is sometimes an emotive discussion, particularly when it comes to business. Perhaps businesses have been seen as uncaring for the environment by some, and environmentalists seen as commercially unrealistic by businesses.

I think those views have changed a lot in the past few years; and are certainly going to change a lot more in the next few – that probably extends to the general public too. Gone are the days where the sustainability discussions can be ignored; if you don’t believe in climate change… lots of others do, and governments certainly do. Changing customer needs and government regulations will mean that there is a need for action.

The Climate Change Commission took a good look at New Zealand’s emissions (carbon and methane) and suggested ways to reduce these to meet our government’s targets by 2050. In short, current policies will not suffice and more aggressive action will be required. The actions available to us are quite obvious; more electric vehicles, more renewable energy, lower farming emissions and planting more trees.

All of this sounds quite reasonable, although with any change there are inevitable trade-offs between economic and environmental needs, so how we transition is important. In New Zealand’s case it will be income gained from agriculture versus lower emissions - not an easy balance to navigate. 

Locally, the biggest consideration we have here is carbon emissions through transport. This is an area where the trade-offs become easier, and perhaps will be sorted for us anyway as EVs and other technologies come to the fore. Private vehicles are relatively easy to imagine as low carbon - heavy vehicles need more time and development. The challenge with battery electric trucks is weight. Batteries are so heavy that payload becomes very low. That’s why we’re looking for ways to push forward with other technologies like hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. In 20 years we will likely live in a low/zero carbon world, and we need to start preparing for that now.