Facing the Future: Towards a Green Economy for New Zealand

This Emerging Issues paper presents evidence from local and global trends suggesting that New Zealand should carefully review its direction of development, and discusses the potential for New Zealand to move towards a green economy. The United Nations Environment Programme describes the core characteristics of a green economy as:  low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.


Global context

  • International science-based reports have identified challenges facing the planet that arise from the effects of human activity on the environment. Many of these problems will impact on, or are already evident in, New Zealand (p2)
  • Lowering greenhouse gas emissions will require changes in patterns of production and consumption, but need not reduce wellbeing (p2)
  • Collaborative multi-stakeholder action is required as businesses, governments, and civil society alone do not have the tools and the authority to tackle systemic risks (p2)

New Zealand context

  • New Zealand’s government and parliamentary bodies have highlighted the potential impacts of these social and environmental challenges on New Zealand’s industry, development and water quality, and the need for New Zealand to contribute to coordinated international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (p4-5)

New Zealand’s potential for a green economy

  • New Zealand would be advantaged by making a transition to a green economy, and  is well positioned to start now to build on its existing strengths
  • New Zealand has a strong competitive advantage in renewable energy systems, and has many opportunities for growing low –carbon technologies and services (p5)
  • A number of New Zealand organisations are undertaking initiatives that increase the efficiency of resource use (p5)
  • Initiatives that support social inclusiveness, as exemplified by the land and water forum, have shown resilient and sustainable solutions are more likely to be generated by collaborative processes that incorporate government, communities, businesses and individuals (p6)

Implementing change

  • There is a need to engage the public and businesses in creating a vision for a resilient and prosperous future
  • New Zealand should establish strong research collaborations to support green innovation, and foster ways to incentivise and grow the production of low-carbon goods and services, improve efficiency, and manage demand (p6)
  • Long-term investments are needed in innovation, trialling new approaches, and supporting collaborations, in areas such as land use, energy supply and efficiency, transport and housing (p7-8)
  • The path to a green economy requires a well-informed and stable policy environment, especially for issues at the interface between economic development and environmental protection (p6)