SUSTAINABILITY : ETS Still A Mystery – But NZ Public Wants Actionꂁ

A measure of the size of the task to inform business and others on emissions trading has emerged. recent survey has found that just three percent of New Zealanders feel “well informed” on the system which will send an emissions price signal through every electricity and fuel bill from July 1 next year.
While 71 percent are aware New Zealand has an emissions trading scheme, 58 percent say they are not well informed about it. Only 12 percent feel informed and three percent well informed on emissions trading. Another 23 percent feel informed but want to know more.
The national ShapeNZ online survey of 2118 New Zealanders in October finds business people are feeling slightly better informed: seven percent say they are well informed, 18 percent informed, 27 percent would like to know more, and 47 percent feel uninformed.
There is strong support for the Government’s announcement that it will undertake an emissions trading scheme (ETS) communications campaign: 77 percent of those in work want it to inform them on emissions reduction measures, 34 percent saying it will benefit their organisation.
The impact of the coming price on emissions is starting to emerge in investment decisions, but again large numbers of people in work reply “not sure” when asked if their organizations:
• will suffer positive or negative impact (31 percent);
• have sufficient information to prepare for emissions trading (29 percent);
• will be required to take part in the trading scheme and either reduce emissions or buy emission units (36 percent); or,
• have taken government emissions reduction measures into consideration when deciding whether to invest in projects (38 percent).
Among those respondents in work, 18 percent say their organisation will be point of obligation under the ETS, but only 17 percent feel their organisation has sufficient information on emissions reduction measures. The ETS is being taken into account in investment decisions by 14 percent of organisations.
Asked about the expected effect the ETS will have on their organisations, 14 percent think it will be positive, 15 percent negative, and 39 percent say it will have no effect at all.
Nearly half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and the response of this sector, along with transport, will be important in helping the country meet its international commitments to cut emissions. As nation we have committed to keep 2008-2012 emissions at 90 percent of 1990 levels, but already exceed this by 24 percent. Forestry will play crucial role in providing carbon sinks to help meet national targets – which may well be higher after the world reaches new climate change agreement.
According to the ShapeNZ research, commissioned by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors emerge with the highest number saying they are “well informed” on emissions trading (though this is still only 11 percent).
The second most well informed sector is government administration and defence (10 percent). However, in the other critical high-emissions sector, transport and storage, only three percent feel well informed.
At the same time some 42 percent of those in the agriculture, fishing and forestry sectors think they will need to comply (become point of obligation) in the ETS and either cut emissions or buy credits.
Only 27 percent of people working in these sectors feel their organisations have sufficient information to prepare for carbon emissions reductions (34 percent say they have insufficient).
If farm owners feel they need further information on how to manage for an ETS, then they might also think about how to bring their farm workers along with them: none in the ShapeNZ research said they felt well informed on emissions trading and only five percent said they felt informed.
In sector and country which needs to build its competitive future on reducing carbon content in its exports, and lowering emissions at home to reduce costs long-term, the need to have everyone understand what’s needed and help achieve it is critical.
The research shows there is still strong desire to do the right thing: Only six in every 100 New Zealanders wants the country to “do as little as possible” in responding to climate change. Some 44% want the country to become global leader, with another 36% wanting us to move at the same pace as other countries. Only three in 100 say they “don’t know” what general course we should follow.
Roll on an effective communications campaign which empowers and inspires business people and citizens to take some action.

Peter Neilson is chief executive of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

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