Sam Judd
Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Green initiatives that will help the economy

17 comments
Fiber glass insulation batts unfaced between wood flooring joist cavities. Image / iStock
Fiber glass insulation batts unfaced between wood flooring joist cavities. Image / iStock

There are plenty of reasons why we should look after the environment. The challenge is to persuade those people who care only about short term wins - mainly to do with how much money they have.

I can certainly empathise with people who are living below the poverty line not prioritising the environment when they are struggling to put food on the table. But I find it hard when people are more concerned about when they will get their third European car from the showroom.

But sometimes, measures that help the environment are so obviously going to save money at the same time, that they are a no brainer and even the most ruthless capitalists will look stupid if they don't support them.

For example, last week the Ministry of Building and Housing announced that all landlords who can feasibly insulate their rental properties must do so by 2019.

The new measure is expected to save 129 lives a year and makes sense no matter which way you look at it.

Community groups that care about the environment, such as the Sustainability Trust in Wellington and CBEC in Northland, have long been promoting the benefits that insulation and other basic solutions like curtain banks can deliver.

In an effort to reduce their carbon emissions and clean up the air - the Fijian government has taken the simple step of removing import duties from electric and hybrid vehicles. This rapidly had the effect of large numbers of Toyota Prius appearing and improving air quality, which will save money in health costs.

Norway, who has long been subsidising electric vehicles and where 23 per cent of new vehicles are already electric, is now looking to ban the import of non-electric vehicles from 2025.

It appears also now that The Netherlands and even India are going to follow suit as they can see the clear societal benefits this will have.

But before you get up in arms about the suggestion of regulation causing economic losses, think about the significant reduction in health costs that Norway will enjoy. They will climb even higher up the OECD, while New Zealand continues to slide.

With the problems caused by air pollution (1,175 premature deaths and massive health costs as I have written about before) and the fact that we have largely renewable energy, perhaps this is something we should consider?

Another area should be in consumer and responsibility of toxic materials. The costs to society of Copper Chrome Arsenic (CCA) treated wood or the highly toxic Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) are simply not taken into account when these materials are purchased. End-of-life disposal costs are essentially passed on to ratepayers and impacts of the toxins are again passed onto the health system, which is wrong.

I think we should either place disposal levies on these nasty materials that are falsely affordable, or subsidise non-toxic alternatives (such as timber from Abodo Wood or PVC alternatives produced locally by New Zealand Steel). The key point here is that regulations like these are not going to hold back the economy; overall they will save us money.

There are plenty of ways that we can get 'two birds with one stone' like this, we just need to research them and then explain them simply to people so that they won't shoot them down as hampering progress.

So why not have our cake and eat it too?

Does anyone have other ideas of how we could save money while improving the environment?

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