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BBC World: Can NZ meet climate neutral pledge?

5 June 2008

Can New Zealand meet its pledge to go climate neutral?

Blue Sky Dreaming - Earth Report Special
on BBC World

Screening Times:
Saturday 7 June - 7.30am & 4.30pm
Monday 9 June - 9.30pm
Wednesday 11 June - 3.30pm & 7.30pm.


New Zealand, host of this year’s World Environment Day, plans to be the first country to have a completely ‘carbon neutral’ economy, with Prime Minister Helen Clark pushing ambitious government policies for radical reductions of greenhouse gas emissions through a big increase in renewable energy and a switch to sustainable transport like electric cars.

But half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from its enormous farming industry - and finding a solution to emissions from sheep and cattle is the biggest challenge. Earth Report goes to New Zealand to investigate.

The New Zealand government’s targets include:

Energy - 90 per cent to come from renewable sources by 2025. This is achievable as New Zealand has plentiful hydro-electricity, wind and geothermal potential, and already generates 70 per cent of its energy from renewable sources.

Transport - 50 per cent cuts in emissions by 2040, achievable only through a massive switch to hybrid and electric vehicles. While New Zealand’s huge renewable energy resources mean it has the capability of powering all road vehicles from renewable fuels, in practice its showcase electric vehicle project has still to import a single electric car.

But reducing New Zealand’s emissions from its vast agriculture sector are likely to be by far its biggest challenge. These emissions are partly from methane released from grazing animals’ stomachs. But one-third of livestock emissions are derived from the release of animal urine into the soil, forming nitrous oxide which - like methane - is a potent greenhouse gas.

To date New Zealand’s agricultural scientists have developed one solution to the problem of farm emissions - a commercial product which can be sprayed onto pasture twice a year to inhibit the formation of nitrous oxide gas.

The other answer is to offset future decades of farm emissions. But to do this, New Zealand faces a tough challenge to plant enough trees – perhaps as many as two million hectares. In other sectors the country already boasts the world’s first carbon-neutral winery. And the government is leading by example, setting six lead government agencies the goal of becoming carbon neutral in only four years.

“What inspired me to go out and challenge New Zealanders to help us become a carbon neutral nation and to be truly sustainable was that - if the world doesn’t tackle this problem comprehensively, we’re not going to be bequeathing much of a planet to future generations.”
Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand

“Grove Mill Vineyards was the first company in the world to actually have a product certified as being carbon zero.”
Dr Paul Reynolds, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

“I think the story of New Zealand is actually a wake-up call and that anybody who says change is going to be easy is wrong. This stuff is really hard, and whether you’re New Zealand, whether you’re the United Kingdom, whether you’re China or the U.S. we’ve got some really hard yards ahead of us if we’re going to be able to beat global warming.”
Dr Nick Smith, Opposition Environment Spokesman, National Party


Earth Report programmes are produced by Television Trust for the Environment (TVE), an independent, non-profit organisation, which promotes global awareness of the environment, development, human rights and health issues through the platforms of broadcast television and other audio-visual media.

Earth Report programmes are distributed for broadcast and on DVD in New Zealand and Australia by Connected Media.

ENDS

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