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New Zealand Not Alone In Looking For Sustainable Post COVID-19 Rebuild According To Report

New Zealand is not alone in planning for a sustainable post COVID-19 rebuild according to a report surveying the recovery plans of the EU and 15 countries around the world.

The report, prepared for The Aotearoa Circle by UK-based environmentalist Sir Jonathan Porritt, will inform The Fenwick Forum, a virtual meeting of 65 corporate and public sector leaders on 11 June. Their aim is to ensure COVID-19 recovery investment supports both economic recovery and ultimate protection and restoration of our natural environment.

Sir Jonathon’s report, Building Back Better: POST-COVID-19 Recovery Planning says at least US$5 trillion has already been committed by governments around the world to prevent their economies imploding.

“It is no exaggeration to say the way in which those trillions of dollars are deployed will have a massive influence on the future of humankind. Ideally, no single dollar should be spent that doesn’t simultaneously address today’s twin crises of the Climate Emergency and our collapsing ecosystems.

“In comparison to recovery plans brought forward after the 2008 Financial Crash, we can already say the prevailing rhetoric in response to the coronavirus crisis, preparing the ground for the detailed recovery programmes to follow, is significantly more focussed on climate change and on a raft of opportunities to prioritise public spending in addressing the climate emergency. There is considerable momentum gathering behind the idea of ‘building back better’ in this way.“

But he warns against complacency. “Even the EU’s €750bn Next Generation recovery plan, which represents the most ambitious climate-focused recovery plan to date, has a long way to go before it can be turned into specific spending plans and delivered projects on the ground.”

Sir Jonathan says one aspect of the EU’s recovery plans plan that stands out is its unambiguous commitment to ensuring the transition from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy and transport systems is just. “Policies have to be designed in such a way that those already disadvantaged by current economic orthodoxies should not be further disadvantaged.”

From the point of view of partners of the Aotearoa Circle, keen to pick up on examples of good (or even best) practice elsewhere in the world, he says by far the biggest disappointment in this research is the near-total lack of any government leadership on biodiversity, on ecosystem protection and restoration, or on the underpinning value of natural capital for any economy’s prospective recovery.

“This dearth of international examples provides a unique challenge for the New Zealand Government and its agencies, for all private sector interests in New Zealand, and for the Aotearoa Circle in particular. The world is clearly crying out for purposeful leadership in this space, as well as on the Climate Emergency, and New Zealand finds itself with an unparalleled opportunity to provide exactly that kind of leadership.”

The Fenwick Forum

Named after The Aotearoa Circle’s co-founder Sir Rob Fenwick, who passed away in March, the virtual Fenwick Forum will be hosted by The Aotearoa Circle’s patron, Her Excellency Dame Patsy Reddy, the Governor General of New Zealand.

The Aotearoa Circle chief executive Vicki Watson said the Fenwick Forum will bring together 65 corporate and public sector leaders to identify key economic recovery projects and system changes that would also achieve key environmental goals.

“Our big goal is sustainable prosperity for all through restoring and managing New Zealand’s natural capital,” said Ms Watson. “The Fenwick Forum was conceived during the middle of our Level 4 lockdown when a range of opinions were being floated for recovery. We noticed that firstly, there didn’t seem to be any integration of the ideas and also there was a risk that natural capital might not be considered in recovery plans.

“The Fenwick Forum was identified as way to bring together leaders from the public and private sector around ‘Wave 3’, when New Zealand would be getting serious about recovery plans for the next 12-24 months. The Aotearoa Circle is all about commitment to action so it made sense to pull together a set of clear, pragmatic and action-oriented recommendations that could act as input to recovery planning across both public and private sectors.”

The forum aims to address Food, Transport and Energy systems, identifying:

  • The most impactful changes to focus on
  • Barriers and opportunities
  • What enablers are available
  • Who needs to partner from the private and public sector to progress the opportunities

The 11 June event will also be informed by the Future Voice Forum – a group of students meeting virtually on 4 June, via the Centre of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland.

“We have a unique opportunity to rethink our future as we focus on our recovery from COVID-19 but it is critical we have the views of the next generation to guide us too. They will inherit the changes we make and they also view our world through a different lens, unencumbered by our current systems and orthodoxies.

“Izzy Fenwick, Sir Rob’s daughter, has conducted in-depth interviews with a selection of 18 to 25 year olds. She has sought their vision for New Zealand and, as potential leaders in 2040, what they would have wanted the leaders of 2020 to have achieved.”

Ms Watson said the output of the Fenwick Forum will be a report to inform COVID-19 recovery plans for Government agencies and ministries as they develop their future plans, political parties as they develop policies for the upcoming election, business leaders as they develop their business and investment plans and for the identification of future phases of work by researchers and special interest groups.

The format for The Fenwick Forum on 11 June will be:

9.30-11am Opening address by the Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy

Update from Izzy Fenwick

Panel interviews with The Aotearoa Circle partners Vicky Robertson CEO of Ministry for the Environment; Fraser Whineray COO of Fonterra, Karen Silk Westpac Bank and Co-Chair of The Aotearoa Circle’s Sustainable Finance Forum and Caralee McLiesh CEO of Treasury

Journalists may attend this session

1.00-3.30pm Parallel sector focus sessions:

Food – facilitated by KPMG

Transport – facilitated by EY

Energy – facilitated by Deloitte

The Fenwick Forum has about 65 confirmed attendees including: Fraser Whineray, COO Fonterra; Vince Hawkesworth, CEO, Mercury; Jane Taylor, Chair, Orion; Vicky Robertson, CEO, MfE; Caralee McLiesh, CEO, Treasury; Todd Charteris, CEO, Rabobank; Antonia Watson, CEO, ANZ; Chris Quin, CEO, Foodstuffs; Peter Mersi, CEO, MoT; Steven Carden, CEO, Pamu; Ray Smith, CEO, MPI; Rod Carr, Chair, CCC; Sir Peter Gluckman, Director, Koi Tu; Sir Stephen Tindall; Richard Gordon, CEO, Manaaki Whenua.

The Aotearoa Circle was founded last year on the coat tails of the Environment Aotearoa state of the environment report, which showed all New Zealand’s stocks of natural capital – soils, fresh water, the climate, biodiversity and the marine environment – were in decline.

The Aotearoa Circle’s draft Sustainable Finance Forum interim report released in October last year

was the first step towards designing a sustainable finance roadmap to 2030, which will be published in November 2020. Marine and Biodiversity workstreams developing system change programmes have also been initiated.

About The Aotearoa Circle – www.theaotearoacircle.nz

The Aotearoa Circle is a unique partnership of public and private sector leaders, unified and committed to the pursuit of sustainable prosperity by reversing the decline of New Zealand’s natural resources. It is enacting a shared responsibility for long-term investment in the country’s natural resources.

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