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Local Mayors should follow US climate change lead

4 May 2006

Media Release

Business leaders urge local Mayors to follow US climate change lead – and deliver ratepayers huge savings

Action by the Mayors of 227 United States cities to cut greenhouse gas emissions -providing major cost and other benefits for their people - is a move which more New Zealand authorities could follow.

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development says the US Mayors, representing 44 million people, are blazing a path for our Mayors.

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says the US Mayors are filling a national leadership vacuum and aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 7% below 1990 levels in the next six years.

"There's a startling case being developed in the US for New Zealand's 86 local authorities to take very pragmatic steps to cut emissions – and save their ratepayers a fortune, while improving their citizens' health and quality of life," Mr Neilson says.

"Central government should also be backing local action to reap major rewards. Some of the policy initiatives will save ratepayers' a fortune. Some need kick-starting by central government."

Mr Neilson says Seattle has already slashed carbon emissions to 60% below 1990 levels.

This was achieved by switching part of the government vehicle fleet to petrol-electric hybrids. That cut fleet fuel use by 7% between 1999 and 2005 – and saves the city US$300,000 a year. Seattle's electricity utility also achieved zero net emissions last year through a combination of energy conservation and switching to renewable energy generation (hydro). Moves are now being made to require buildings to be energy efficient.

Moves are also being made to grow public transport use, encourage car pooling, business subsidies to employees using public transport and car pooling. Portland has increased public transport use by 75% since 1990, adding light rail, reintroducing a version of the old streetcar, free car parking for carpoolers. Traffic signals have been converted to LED (light emitting diode) – and cut energy use a whopping 80%.

This is saving the city US$500,000 a year in energy and maintenance.

Mr Neilson says the Government needs to get behind Business Council policy proposals, like providing cash grants of up to $3000 for new fuel efficient, low emission cars.

"And local and central government need to commit to new procurement policies which insist on buying products and services – including vehicle fleets – which are climate friendly. At the moment many buy on price only. It can be false economy. Our polling shows huge numbers support these balanced, down-to-earth – initiatives. "They can save money, improve the air, help manage climate change, and help cut our whopping Kyoto carbon bill. Most importantly, they can make our cities and towns healthier, cut pollution and asthma rates and help preserve New Zealanders' quality of life," Mr Neilson says.

In New Zealand 17 local authorities, including Auckland, North Shore, Waitakere, Hamilton and Wellington cities, have so far joined the international Communities for Climate Protection programme aimed at lowering emissions.

"We believe there's huge scope for more local authorities – including big ones like Manukau, Dunedin and Hutt – to join this drive to get some action, from local areas up, to make sure our towns and cities are sustainable. Our research shows people will support this type of initiative. Around the world, local authorities are acting because, in some cases, they believe they can't afford to wait for their central governments to act.

"We'd like to see balanced, practicable initiatives and campaigns, backed up by a raft of initiatives in the Government's climate change review, due out in a few months," Mr Neilson says. "It makes sound business, environmental and social sense."

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Note: New Zealand's total emissions each year are 75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Of this, almost half (37Mt) is from agriculture (livestock and fertiliser emissions) and almost one fifth (14Mt) is from transport. The latest (2008-2012) forecast of our emissions position in the Kyoto first commitment period, when binding commitments apply, predicts that New Zealand's emission will exceed our 1990 baseline emissions by 36 million tonnes. Information on New Zealand local authorities' sustainable policy initiatives and progress is available at http://ccp.iclei.org/ccp-nz Details on the Business Council's climate friendly car policy are available at http://www.nzbcsd.org.nz/story.asp?id=607

The Business Council believes sustainable businesses are profitable, contribute to social progress and ecological balance – and protect New Zealand's quality of life. The Council's 51 members jointly employ 55,000 people engaged in managing resources, manufacturing, retailing and the service sector. Members contribute annual sales of $33 billion to the economy, equivalent to 28% of GDP.

ENDS

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