As we approach the crucial Paris Climate Change meeting in December, it's worth reflecting on how far the world has moved in addressing climate change. It's a long-lived policy challenge, one that will take decades to fix and longer to measure success or failure. Sometimes we can be too negative in our perceptions when the reality is that we are making progress.

Here, most progress has come from the business sector. Ten years ago Business New Zealand found it hard to even use the word sustainability or address climate change seriously. Now it has spawned the Sustainable Business Council and is fully engaged in looking at our energy future.

Pure Advantage, set up by progressive business people, provides leadership by doing. Federated Farmers and Fonterra acknowledge the need to reduce emissions from agriculture and the sector is investing big in science - a long way from tractors being driven up the steps of Parliament by protesting farming leaders.

Greenpeace isn't just climbing chimneys but has made practical suggestions on how to configure a low carbon economy. New Zealand's youth is becoming more and more engaged. Generation Zero is leading the conversation on the future of our transport network.


Last month, I attended a business breakfast hosted by Air New Zealand. The chief executive acknowledged, as he should, that aviation was a big emitter and that biofuels were challenging. But he committed the company to becoming more fuel-efficient and to making business growth carbon neutral from 2020.

He's even transforming the company's vehicle fleet to fully electric.

More than 400 business and community leaders in the room were challenged to match Air New Zealand's commitments. The response was positive and can-do, not one that was resistant to the messaging.

For all the criticism of our Government, there has been progress there too. We have an Emissions Trading Scheme, and NZ was one of the first countries to do so. It has bi-partisan support.

Yes, its price signal is too weak. But the ETS is due for review shortly. This is an opportunity to recalibrate both the metrics and the scope to make it more effective.

More than 80 per cent of New Zealand's electricity comes from renewables. With so much of our electricity from hydro, wind and geothermal, there can't be a better country than New Zealand to begin to roll out electric vehicles in a comprehensive way.

The timing is right: technologies are evolving rapidly and getting more affordable. The VW scandal will give even further impetus to hybrid and electric vehicles. Auckland's rail network is newly converted to electric.

Other countries are also making progress. Australia has dumped its climate sceptic, anti-wind power PM for a leader who is progressive on climate change. The US has just announced a Clean Power Plan that sets achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. China will introduce an ETS in 2017. We are not alone.

When world leaders meet in Paris in December, the expectation is there will be a new global agreement to control carbon emissions. This will be another step along the way.

Some would like to see more commitment, more urgency and I'm one of them. But it's not all doom and gloom. We've made a lot of progress.

Gary Taylor is chairman of the Environmental Defence Society and convener of the Australia-New Zealand Climate Change and Business Conference to be held in Auckland next Tuesday and Wednesday.