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Mallard: Joint government/UNEP press conference

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister for the Environment

5 June 2008 Speech Notes

New Zealanders join forces to mark World Environment Day

Environment Minister Trevor Mallard's speech at the Joint government/UNEP press conference for World Environment Day, Icon Restaurant, Te Papa, Wellington

Good morning. I’d like to welcome you all to today’s press conference, which officially marks World Environment Day 2008.

In particular, I would like to welcome President Anote Tong of Kiribati, Dr Ranjendra Pachauri, Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner, to Wellington to help us celebrate this very special day.

The work the United Nations Environment Programme does is extremely valuable. As the environmental voice of the United Nations, it keeps the global environment under review and brings emerging issues to the attention of governments and the international community for action. And it is fantastic not only to have the driver behind this incredible and momentous work here with us on World Environment Day, but to also have two gentleman of such international standing as President Tong and Dr Pachauri, here with us today.

It is both a pleasure and an honour for New Zealand to be hosting such a significant event. There are huge numbers of New Zealanders involved in celebrations and undertaking their own environmental activities around the country to mark this special occasion – and this is a brilliant indication of the country’s drive towards sustainability and reducing the impacts of climate change.

Over 120 schools, Iwi and community groups will today be planting trees and gardens, or building or repairing walkways and cycle tracks, and educating others on how to take better care of our environment.

The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is ‘kick the carbon habit’ and focuses on opportunities for countries, companies and communities to make the transition to a low carbon economy and lifestyle. As one of the first countries with a stated goal to work towards a carbon-neutral future, New Zealand is a logical choice to host the event this year.

New Zealand has a climate change plan of action in place, that tackles this huge challenge on several fronts because we recognise any plan can not rely on one single silver bullet.

To incentivise climate-friendly behaviour we are introducing an emissions trading scheme, which includes all sectors and all gases, a new energy strategy that focuses on renewables, and we are also tackling climate change at the household, business and science and research levels through a range of government initiatives and support and private sector collaboration. Our public sector is leading by example through our Carbon Neutral Public Sector programme.

We are also the first country in the world to include agricultural emissions as part of an emissions trading scheme.

New Zealand already gets around two-thirds of its electricity from renewable sources, and our plan involves a goal of generating 90 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and halving our per capita transport emissions by 2040 including consideration of wider developments including electric cars and use of bio fuels.

In terms of renewable energy – we already have a hydro energy and geothermal base and wind energy is taking off.

Looking to the future, New Zealand has the potential to derive power from ocean waves and tides, and we are moving closer towards that exciting possibility. The first grant from the government's Marine Energy Deployment Fund was awarded last week to assist kiwi company Crest Energy to deploy up to three tidal stream turbines at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour, north of Auckland.

New Zealand is a country of innovators, and there are economic opportunities for New Zealand if we take the lead on climate change and big economic risks and costs if we don't leverage off our strengths in key areas.

New Zealand can profit by creating efficient and sustainable products the rest of the world wants to buy.

And we can and will also demonstrate leadership in the area of pastoral emissions and we are the first country in the world to include agricultural emissions as part of an emissions trading scheme.

Agriculture, which includes livestock, is an important sector in New Zealand's economy, but it contributes to an unusual greenhouse gas emissions profile for a developed country. Methane and nitrous oxide from our agricultural sector account for almost 50 per cent of our total emissions.

New Zealand is already a world leader in agricultural research, and we are now turning our expertise towards research to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, including methane from livestock. Domestic research is also being carried out in collaboration with international partners.

These programmes reflect our commitment in pursuing a sustainable New Zealand. We know that is it not only the right thing to do for our environment, but it is an investment in our country’s social and economic health.

Climate change is one of the most challenging environmental issues facing the world today and as various people from New Zealand and around the world gather today to celebrate World Environment Day, we are all recognising the reality of our global interdependence and the responsibility that we all share for securing the world's wellbeing for generations to come.

World Environment Day is a fantastic opportunity to bring the world’s communities together to find new ways to protect our environment and form stronger networks to support and build on the work that is already underway.

It is an honour for us to be able to show our international guests like Mr Steiner how much New Zealand values our environment and to share ideas on other initiatives we might be able to take in the future to help protect it.


ENDS

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