Yes, New Zealand does have an Emissions Trading Scheme, albeit one celebrated as much in the breach as the observance, given that it excludes agriculture - which produces 49 per cent of New Zealand's emissions as methane and nitrous oxide (N2O).
Yet the Sustainability Council's executive director, Simon Terry, points out that agriculture could dramatically cut our emissions. Trials using nitrification inhibitors show an average halving of N2O production. This also reduces soil leaching and protects waterways, a big plus for the dairy sector.
The Government's decision to push coal, oil and gas is a potential revenue-generator, but "at some point you price oil out of the equation with a carbon tax, if you are serious about avoiding dangerous climate change", argues Terry.
Despite our huge potential to generate renewable energy, the Sustainability Council reported last April that a UN review team "officially confirmed that New Zealand's response to climate change is inadequate". The UN expressed "great concern" that planned measures accounted for only a third of the reduction in emissions New Zealand is legally bound to achieve by 2020.
While we are supposed to slash emissions 5 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050, by 2007 they had risen 22 per cent. The council also noted that "most of the claimed savings are, however, from supposedly avoiding the construction of new coal-fired stations".
In New Zealand, which has the OECD's fifth-highest emissions per head, climate change seems to lack the urgency it has for other nations. Last year the Carbon Disclosure Project invited 6000 firms worldwide to disclose their climate strategies; 43 per cent of NZX 50 firms complied, compared with over 90 per cent in the European Union and 73 per cent in the ASX Top 100.By Peter Huck