Live Sustainable or Die, NZ

Clark: Sustainability or death

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Jun 12, 2007
A transtasman carbon trading scheme is possible and countries must become environmentally sustainable or die, Prime Minister Helen Clark says.

Addressing a Trans Tasman Business Circle lunch in Melbourne, Clark focused on moves towards a single economic model for Australia and New Zealand, and the need for sustainable growth.

"I do believe that those who do not take sustainability seriously are likely to face consumer resistance and even trade barriers in the future," she said.

Later she said that companies must be environmentally friendly to survive.

"Sustainability or die," she said.

"It's not just food companies, it's the whole lot, because increasingly people are asking not just what a product does, they wonder how it's made and how it's transported."

She said sustainability-based trade barriers were already emerging.

"What I see happening in Europe, is that as we finally look like we're getting somewhere with the Doha round in agricultural trade reform, another set of barriers emerge - food miles, travel miles," she said.

Australia and New Zealand need to work together to challenge the idea that the distance food travels automatically makes it unsustainable, she said. Clark said she believed the Australian mood had changed rapidly on environmental issues.

"I'm just fascinated by the way climate change has come right to the top of the agenda in Australia in literally a few months," she said.

On whether this might have been caused by the looming federal election, she said: "There's an old saying that necessity's the mother of invention."

Clark said Australia had been shocked by its drought, which brought environmental issues to the forefront.

The New Zealand government and stock exchange are both working on carbon trading plans, and there may be scope to collaborate with Australia in the future, she said.

"I think it's possible," she said."I think, given the close integration of the markets, anything's possible."

However, Australia's path to sustainability would be different to New Zealand's, she said.

"Australia doesn't have the great rivers to dam, Australia doesn't have the geothermal, Australia's got a lot of fossil fuels.

"Your route will be through intense research and buying in others' research on clean coal technology, that's going to be absolutely critical for Australia."

Clark said New Zealand's CarboNZero programme was embraced by major businesses who understood the value of having sustainability branding.

At the lunch, Clark hosed down prospects of a shared currency, saying New Zealand as the smaller party did not want to carry the cost of "dancing around" Australian monetary policy. She also said her government was jealous of Australia's compulsory superannuation scheme as it prepares to introduce Kiwisaver.

Source: Newstalk ZB