COMMENT:

Cynics will inevitably label the embrace of the Government's Zero Carbon zeitgeist by top business and farming leaders as "virtue signalling" at its worst.

After all, many business leaders, particularly from the agriculture sector, have spent a great deal of angst in the past decade kicking up a storm at any attempt to bring New Zealand fully within the scope of the Paris Climate Agreement objectives.

But there is a new realism at work as more businesses wake up to the fact that their stakeholders, employees and consumers expect them to grapple with the existential issue of our times — global warming. And that there might also be "profit in purpose".

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Now those business leaders — the likes of Z Energy's Mike Bennetts, Air New Zealand's Christopher Luxon and Vector CEO Simon Mackenzie to name just three — are engaging with Government.

This is not the reality that is portrayed by the lazy thinking, the easy headlines and the dismissive scorn poured on this Government by shock jocks who continually forecast that New Zealand is on the verge of another "winter of discontent".

And by their ceaseless gloom, engender the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy which Sky City chairman Rob Campbell cautioned against this week.

New Zealand is not in the grip of recession. Neither Donald Trump nor Kim Jong Un — nor any other political leader — is pointing war toys at us. The global commodities trade is not in a slump.

Yet we are asked to believe that business is about to put its toys away in response to chaotic political management by the Coalition Government.

Yes, there is a gut reaction — by some — to new labour legislation. Others think it is high time NZ employers paid their staff more.

The Government's failure to consult on its controversial oil and gas decision was appalling. But that is in the past.

And it is not a funk that either business or the media need to talk us into when the real risks — which are considerable — are more global than domestic.

Dig a bit deeper, and away from those headlines engendered by business organisations, and you will find that senior company leaders have been engaging with the Coalition Government.

Nowhere is this more obvious than with the call to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw — a former PwC consultant — is no stranger to the boardrooms of larger multinational companies.

Shaw spent 12 years in London working with such companies to develop their sustainable business practices.

In past weeks he has held private discussions with groups like the Climate Leaders Coalition — a group of 60 CEOs — which this week publicly committed their companies to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions and work with suppliers to reduce theirs with the aim of helping to keep global warming within 2C as specified in the Paris Agreement.

The group billed their action as "unprecedented" — which it is — but in truth, as Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr (also a signatory), said "let's have our moment of glory — but we (NZ) are lagging behind the world".

The group has also backed the introduction of a Climate Commission along with the establishment of carbon budgets, enshrined in law.

Given that these CEOs lead companies that between them contribute in total nearly 50 per cent of NZ's emissions, this is a significant step.

They have committed to report publicly on their emissions reductions.

Arguably, an annual report that aggregates those reductions will keep CEOs on target and reduce cynics' claims the project is a greenwashing exercise.

For Shaw, who has this week been travelling in Asia, the public affirmation by the 60 CEOs that NZ business is finally getting serious could not happen at a better time.

Like New Zealand, China, which Shaw has also been visiting, is not a poster child for the environment. But he hopes to forge some commonality with his ministerial counterpart.

The Climate Leaders Coalition move comes on top of a July 1 joint statement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Farmers Leaders Group which acknowledged and supported the Government's goal of New Zealand achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and the part the agri-food sector could do to achieve it.

"The farming sector and Government are committed to working together to achieve net zero emissions from agri-food production by 2050," the joint statement said.

There was much more besides.

But the point is, these commitments do not emerge if the Government and business are at each others' throats.

If the two parties can forge a common purpose on climate issues, what is to stop them doing so on other issues?

Only fools would wish upon us a "winter of discontent".