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It is never too late to change, says the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) on a report into the country’s environmental policies.
The self-funded report by senior NZIER economist Peter Clough questions the high profile of greenhouse gas emissions and policies to achieve ‘zero waste,’ instead of focusing on improving air quality, protecting ecosystems and water management.
Each policy proposal should undergo a cost-benefit test, it said.
Chief executive Jean-Pierre de Raad said New Zealand needed to engage with the world in a unified approach including developing countries, without focusing on emissions reductions at a high social and economic cost.
“The focus on climate change is a sideline, really. What we’re really talking about is a useful framework for sustainability policy.”
He said the report was designed as a point of discussion, rather than a lobbying tool, but it was “never too late” for the government to change, despite the looming climate change negotiations in December.
“What we haven’t done is the economic modelling of changing policies and current priorities.”
Mr de Raad said there was also a question of how much you want to push policy, including greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
Mr Clough said current policy priorities were wrong when considering how unique the environmental stock at risk was, the value at risk, the immediacy of the spread of the threat and whether there was opportunity to control the outcome.
Water demand management and water allocation ranked high because of the potential to affect availability and cost of production and consumption.
NZIER suggested rebalancing policy towards adaptation to change, redirection in conservation and a refocus of waste minimisation initiatives to those that could produce net benefits.