A little over 16 months ago, Sir Rob Fenwick wrote that, "Time is running out for me, but it is with the profound sadness that I consider that time is running out too, for our precious environment. While my doctor has exhausted all his options, we as a nation have not exhausted ours when it comes to saving our trees. This is a crisis. Time is running out for the treasures of nature that we love, and it is worth using every last breath, all of our collective energy, to save our land and secure our future."
The Aotearoa Circle, which Sir Rob co-founded, is in its third year and very much committed to achieving sustainable prosperity for New Zealand.
As we know, Aotearoa New Zealand generates most of its financial capital from natural capital. But we can't continue as we have. It would only be a matter of a lifetime or so and nature's economy could be insolvent.
The work that the Circle undertakes aims to operate at the system level, to achieve lasting impact. Our first workstream in sustainable finance was a deliberate choice as we needed to consider how we can have the right type of finance, at scale, to achieve the transformation needed.
The Sustainable Finance Forum 2.0 has made fast work of their mandate to establish a Centre for Sustainable Finance. In the Roadmap for Action, released last November, recommendation six specifically identified a need, as there was no one agency currently existing that could do the essential coordinating and convening role.
SFF 2.0, led by Bridget Coates and Ross Pennington began 2021 building the business case for a Centre, identifying its core responsibilities and why it was needed. Six months on it has now launched with 10 founding funders in place, an interim CEO appointed, some immediate announcements, as well as a new governance board ready to go.
This is one of four current workstreams for the Circle which, through its constellation model of governance, has separate leadership groups in place to drive the work.
In 2021 we will complete a Seafood Sector Adaptation plan which will be the first sector to collaborate with this goal.
The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019 will require New Zealand to prepare for, and adapt to, the effects of climate change including national adaptation plans. It is hoped the Seafood Sector strategy will be an example for other sectors to learn from as well as drive impact from new investment, identified upskilling, innovation and technologies.
We will also complete phase II of the national food strategy with a series of dialogues across the food eco-system in September/October to clarify objectives, goals, barriers preventing change, opportunities that could be amplified and others that lead to innovation to do things differently. This will provide core data to develop a food strategy in Phase III next year.
The last major workstream is the Low Carbon Energy Roadmap (LCER) considering an all sector, long term view to 2050. Its key objectives include the energy trilemma as well as just transition and resilience.
It is anticipated the Roadmap will inform the new national energy strategy that the Climate Change Commission has outlined in its budget advice to government.
In all workstreams, The Aotearoa Circle has convened key leaders in both private and public sectors, as well as science and NGOs, with the desired outcome to halt the decline in our natural capital.
The work plan for 2022 will continue implementation of roadmaps and strategies that will see tangible actions making a difference.
As Sir Rob said, "While the environment might speak its own language, its cries cannot be misunderstood. We know what is happening, we know what we must do — now, we must simply do it."
●Vicki Watson is Chief Executive of the Aotearoa Circle. The Aotearoa Circle is a sponsor partner for the Sustainable Business report.