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Major policy contest opens for climate change

30 October 2006

Media Release

Major policy contest opens for climate change and sustainable development high ground

The Prime Minister's Labour Party conference speech emphasising the need for "bold" climate change and sustainable development policies signals these issues are now firmly on the mainstream agenda.

They also signal the start of a major political policy contest, according to business leaders including New Zealand's largest enterprises.

There is significant business and voter support for policies which tackle climate change, enable the economy to thrive and also preserve New Zealand's quality of life, the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, said today.

In a speech at the weekend, the Prime Minister says the country needs to pull its weight on climate change and sustainability, and the Government is looking at a raft of policies, on issues ranging from renewable energy, bio fuels, solar heating and fuel efficiency.

"That will be music to the ears of most business decision makers' ears," says Peter Neilson, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The Business Council, whose 50 member companies' annual sales equate to 30% of the country's gross domestic product, has been urging political parties to adopt practical and highly popular policies to address climate change, and make sure the New Zealand quality of life is sustained long term.

Mr Neilson says a Business Council weighted nationwide online survey of 330 business decision makers, using the ShapeNZ survey panel, shows 38% believe climate change through global warming is a "problem now" and 45% say it is "urgent and immediate". Only 7% say it is not really a problem at all, and 8% say it is a problem for the future.

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The poll also finds huge support for policies which not only lower emissions but address health and quality of life issues as well.

Decision makers backed policies to provide Government cash incentives to boost sales of fuel efficient, low emission vehicles (57% support); insulate homes (53%); install solar power in homes (67%). They also overwhelmingly support incentives to plant more forests and produce energy from renewable sources, like wind power.

"Any political leader stepping up to make sure we preserve what New Zealanders most want – to ensure our quality of life is preserved long term, for our children and grand children – steps onto very solid and highly popular ground," Mr Neilson says.

Quality of life enhancement and climate change management had become a central policy of Britain's poll-leading Conservative Party. Sustainability had moved onto the mainstream political agenda in the United States, Australian states, and Europe.

"The National Party is now also moving in this area. Earlier this month National's Bluegreen Environment discussion document showed a convergence of major party policy on climate change. Labour and National both now support a new Kyoto type Treaty for beyond 2012, a cap and trade regime for trading emission credits and joining the Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development.

With such deeply embedded support to be tapped among New Zealanders, by those doing the right thing, while using commonsense policies, we can expect this to become perhaps the biggest policy debate during the next two years," Mr Neilson says.

How the country manages long term to grow profitable business, keep its skilled people, while preserving the country's quality of life, meet growing costs like health care during the next 40 years, were also central to the agenda of the country's first Business Budget Summit, being held this Wednesday, November 1.

The summit, involving nearly 100 senior executives and hosted by the Minister of Finance, Hon Dr Michael Cullen, will spend a day trying to bring a long term focus to policy development, but starting with measures it believes the Government should drive into next year's Budget that have a longer term focus.

"New Zealanders are showing they can think beyond three year election cycles. We have issues that demand 30 to 40 year solutions, and it's good to see the Government and other political parties making room for issues to be considered on that basis," Mr Neilson says.


Editors note:
ShapeNZ poll results covering decision makers' views on climate change and sustainable development policy options are available at http://www.nzbcsd.org.nz/story.asp?id=697

Details on the inaugural Business Budget Summit are available at www.budgetsummit.org.nz

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