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Big changes, many not ready

CLIMATE DRIVEN: Electric vehicle charging stations like this one at Tokomaru Bay will help the region and our businesses to reduce carbon emmissions. Picture supplied

While the region’s business leaders are urging the Government to go further in tackling the climate crisis, a new survey suggests half of our businesspeople have little interest in the issue.

One of Trust Tairawhiti’s key submission points on the Government’s consultation document to help draft New Zealand’s first Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) is that its draft emissions reduction budgets are “inadequate”.

The ERP will set the direction for climate action through to 2035, with emissions reductions across areas including energy, transport, waste, agriculture, construction and financial services.

“Global greenhouse gas emissions need to halve by 2030 for the world to have any chance of staying within the critical limit of 1.5 degrees of global warming. The Government’s current budgets will mean that New Zealand will not be playing its part,” Trust Tairawhiti chief executive Gavin Murphy said.

“The final emissions reduction budgets are inadequate. New Zealand will not be doing enough to align with the science and from a global equity perspective,” he said.

“The trust supports the overall direction of the Government’s discussion document and is committed to playing a leadership role in the Tairawhiti climate change response.

“Our submission welcomed opportunities for our region to be an innovation test-bed for climate solutions that can feed into national policy, particularly if that innovation is focused on ensuring our region’s decarbonisation journey is equitable.”

The Sustainable Business Council (SBC) and the Climate Leaders Coalition (CLC) both welcomed the release of the Government’s ERP discussion document and have called for greater engagement with the business community to close the emissions gap identified.

“While we welcome the ambition set out by the Minister of Climate Change, we note that the detailed policies and actions set out in the discussion document fall short of the proposed emissions budgets,” SBC executive director Mike Burrell said.

“It is clear that further work is required to develop the detail of the ERP to ensure we are doing our bit to support international efforts to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

“By engaging sustainable businesses in that process, we remain confident that together, the private sector, civil society and government can meet the challenge and create a plan that Aotearoa New Zealand can get behind. We look forward to being consulted on the draft plan in early 2022, before the final plan is released in May.”

The SBC and CLC put forward a number of recommendations to the Climate Change Commission, many of which were reflected in the commission’s final advice.

“The commission’s advice provides clear pathways to deliver on our emissions reductions. We urge Government to reflect more of this advice in the final ERP in order to provide the clarity, confidence, and certainty that businesses need to make investment decisions that will enable the transition to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future,” said Mr Burrell.

“Once finalised, the ERP will be a critical step to get us on track to a low-emissions future in which people and nature thrive. But that requires ambition and pace — and needs to start now.”

SBC and CLC are working through the details with their members, developing a considered submission on the discussion document to present to the Government.

Gisborne-based Eastland Group is a member of the Climate Leaders Coalition and worked with CLC on their submission on the consultation document.

It is also supporting the transition to a low carbon future here in Tairawhiti with a range of practical initiatives, including: the establishment of a region-wide network of electric vehicle fast chargers; ensuring the company’s non-commercial vehicle fleet is electric; the introduction of an electric water truck at Eastland Port; conducting long-term solar trials; expanding its investment in renewable energy generation, including applying for resource consent for Tairawhiti’s first solar power plant; and working with Trust Tairawhiti and suppliers on reducing emissions.

Eastland Group has also built the most sustainable airport terminal in New Zealand.

However, just how many businesspeople in Tairawhiti are taking climate crisis seriously is questionable.

Gisborne Chamber of Commerce vice-president Paul Naske said he expected the Government’s emissions reduction plan to result in changes in policy and legislation that would affect businesses, but was concerned with a seemigly low number of businesspeople here concerned about the climate crisis.

“On a local level it seems that only about half of businesses in our region are alarmed or concerned at the prospects of a changing climate in our region.

“Recently the Gisborne Chamber of Commerce undertook a survey of 103 business owners and managers to determine their attitudes towards climate change; 49 percent of them were ‘alarmed or concerned’, 23 percent were ‘doubtful or dismissive’ and the balance, 28 percent, were ‘cautious or disengaged’.

“As a region this is important to know, because our businesses and our leaders will be judged on their attitudes towards climate change by the tourists who come here, the consumers who buy our products and the future governments that fund our region.

“It is important to know where our businesses lie on this continuum.

“For half of our businesses to not be concerned about climate change is not only short-sighted from an environmental perspective but naïve, at best, from a business one.

“Regardless of where you sit on this attitude continuum, the reality is that the business environment globally, nationally and locally is going to change, and businesses need to adapt, or die.”

Climate leadership has been identified as a key commitment in Trust Tairawhiti’s strategic plan, Te aka rautaki ki te tau 2026.

The trust’s top four climate priorities for this financial year are:

- to work with Eastland Group to meet joint emissions reduction targets — 21 percent reduction in emissions by 2024 from the 2019 baseline (Climate Leaders Coalition)

- to build climate considerations more clearly into our funding and decision-making processes

- to support businesses and communities to take climate action

- to partner with GDC, iwi and our communities to prepare a regional ‘Just Transition’ Emissions Reduction Plan.

“We are continuing to promote the Sustainable Business Network’s (SBN) online climate action toolbox for business as well as supporting the regional conversation occurring on the future of permanent carbon farming in Tairawhiti,” Mr Murphy said.

“The trust remains committed to supporting the conversations the region needs to have about the climate crisis.”