Where's Steven?

The launch tonight aboard the Rainbow Warrior of Greenpeace NZ’s clean economy report recalls the time New Zealand turned away from nuclear energy. Now, as then, we’re at an historical crossroads. But where is the Economic Development Minister?

Forty years ago, New Zealand had to decide whether we’d plan for a nuclear power supply. In the end, we made some other choices: a lot of hydro, some gas, some coal.

Renewable energy options have come a long way since then; so has nuclear of course, but then so has our stance on nuclear-free.

Tonight, the future is here. Greenpeace’s report (The Future is Here: New Jobs, New Prosperity and a New Clean Economy) proposes a clean, 100% renewable economy for New Zealand by 2050, with massive economic benefits relative to business as usual: digging up coal, drilling for oil and gas.

Taking international studies, and modelling commissioned by Greenpeace from leading energy and economic analysts, it offers a vision for New Zealand. Not Australia, not Norway. Our own way.

It challenges the government to take the right road - the one powered on biomass. (It's another report affirming a future for NZ in locally-produced wood-based liquid fuels, drop-in substitutes for diesel.)

The report sets two Energy Revolution goals: to generate 100% of New Zealand’s electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025; and all energy (transport, industrial) from renewable sources by 2050.

In return, it promises:

  • A shift to 100% renewable electricity for NZ by 2025 would cost the economy less than a business as usual projection.
  • Investment in clean energy creates more jobs, and higher value jobs: somewhere between two and four jobs, for every one that would be created by the same investment in fossil fuels.
  • A 94% reduction on 2009 carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 - from 25m tonnes to 1.8m - one of the lowest per capita CO2 emissions in the world.
  • Within 22 years, a future in which NZ road transport is almost oil free - using just 1.2m barrels of oil in 2035, instead of over 29m.
  • Diversification and jobs - by exporting geothermal expertise, worth $4bn a year, and becoming experts in wave and tidal generation.
  • Added value to our reputation and brand - on which 50% of jobs and 70% of exports, according to the report, rely - safeguarding existing income from primary industry and tourism.
  • Immunity for NZers to future oil price shocks. Improved energy independence and security, dramatically reduced exposure to carbon costs and market tariffs. Savings of over NZ$7bn per year in oil imports.
  • Another time in our history, when we can look back and say: we won. We stood up for what was right.

To achieve this, Joyce and his colleagues must adopt a radically different strategy: one of leadership, shifting investment from roads, a revolution in transport and energy planning.

The report challenges the presumption that there’s no public money to spend. The government is proposing to spend more than $12bn on its roads of National significance, let alone “perverse subsidies” for polluters.

It also posits clean investment for pension funds.

We have here, in this report’s 30 pages (backed by much more extensive modelling) what’s been missing - two competing ideas. Or even: an idea - as Key’s government seems bereft of them. Adhering to ideology not fit for purpose: a government that has, thankfully, failed in its vision for mining our national parks; watched big oil relinquish its permits; and Kiwis head one-way for Aus.

It's nonsense - asserts the report - to say there's no alternative way forward, to position environmental advocates as anti-development. The revolution is 100% possible - a newly-launched campaign by NGOs 350 Aotearoa and Gen Zero.

Ironically, it is Greenpeace et al who are all about change, positioning New Zealand for a future in this century, not the last one. Don't believe Mr Joyce's hype.

Nor does it stand alone. This joins a series of other reports - Pure Advantage's Green Race, Richard Branson’s the B-Team (run by Kiwi Derek Handley, offering business solutions for environmental challenges, with NZ as the first case study).

So I'm left with two questions:

Why did it take an NGO to do it?

And where is the Economic Development Minister?

Tomorrow night - again on board the Warrior - Greenpeace will host a political debate chaired by Rod Oram. Deputy leader Grant Robertson will speak for Labour, co-leader Russel Norman for the Greens. Hon Steven Joyce was invited to attend; but instead it will be Nicky Wagner speaking for the government.

We should debate this, New Zealand, and demand it. Congratulations to Greenpeace. It’s time. The Rainbow Warrior’s come home.


Claire Browning is a Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate.