Zero tolerance   8 Dec 2006

Ellie van Baaren

CLIMATE CHANGE: Climate change and greenhouse gases have become a fashionable political accessory. It’s a subject New Zealand has always raised its voice on and while the increased focus is great, it has also forced New Zealand’s to deal with its own situation. New Zealand’s emissions are still rising and the chances of achieving our Kyoto commitments are increasingly remote.

One scheme doing its bit is the CarboNZero programme, which has been running since 2001. Aside from its aim of reducing New Zealand’s carbon emissions, it also gives companies the chance to negate any claims that they are contributing to global warming, by achieving a certification.

The scheme is owned and managed by Landcare Research, a Crown Research Institute that focuses on greenhouse gases and climate change. Its roots lie in a project started with Ron Marriott, a landowner in the Queen Charlotte Wilderness Park in Marlborough, which resulted in the Emissions Biodiversity Exchance in the 21st century (EBEX21) project. This looked at how carbon credits might be created through forest regenera-tion and the CarboNZero project was developed to allow businesses to offset unavoidable emissions by purchasing carbon credits created by EBEX21.

Professor Ann Smith, Research Leader in the Business & Sustainability department of Landcare Research says the CarboNZero programme assists organisations to understand "the link between their business activities and sources of greenhouse gas emissions by providing simple tools for monitoring and reporting their emissions, tips and resources for reducing emissions and access to carbon credits to offset unavoidable emissions".

Certification is rigorously managed to ensure credibility for New Zealand products and services, including an independent audit, and all carbon credits are sourced from forest regeneration projects. These are in line with the Kyoto Protocol and located in New Zealand. Participants can also only achieve the certification through activities – in other words throwing money in the "right" direction doesn’t count.

It’s not solely for businesses – individuals, associations and events can also use the CarboNZero calculators to ensure they are making a difference without having to get certification.

The programme received early support from companies such as Toyota NZ and South Pacific Pictures – the nightly soap opera Shortland Street is CarboNZero certified – and Prof Smith says participation last year was double what it was for the previous four years.

Not only does participation in the scheme mean you’re doing your bit envir-onmentally, it can also be advantageous in a business sense. The New Zealand Wine Company has certification for its Grove Mill and Sanctuary brands (believed to be the first wine company to produce carbon neutral wine), and as a result Sainsbury’s supermarket chain in the UK has increased its order of Sanctuary wines.

Initially funded as a research project, Prof Smith says CarboNZero will move towards being self-funded over the next two years. It’s just one part of a concerted effort to bring New Zealand’s actions in line with its reputation.

– NZinspired magazine, December 06/January 07

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