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In December 2002 New Zealand formally became a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol. This milestone marked the advent of a new form of currency in New Zealand through the introduction of “carbon credits” or “emission units” -a mechanism by which central government could encourage all sectors in the national economy to reduce their release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and to invest in renewable energy sources.

In the lead up to signing the Kyoto Protocol, the Government released four new, far-reaching national strategies that flagged to the water industry that changes were needed to long-sector industrial practices and acted as a precursor to the adoption of Kyoto targets and formal signing of the Protocol. These policies were:

National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (NEECS);

New Zealand Waste Strategy (NZWS);

Climate Change – A Discussion Document.

New Zealand Sustainable Development Programme of Action

While all sectors of the economy are targeted in these strategies, local government - which primarily represents the water industry - has the greatest opportunity to address the issues raised and the challenges set by Government. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) studies showed that over 37% of the energy used by local authorities is for the collection and treatment of sewerage or for the treatment and distribution of drinking water. A considerable and probably increasing portion of this energy is used in meeting either higher treatment standards or to stabilise, dewater and dispose of the sludges produced in wastewater and water treatment.

The reliance on two policies - NEECS and NZWS - for emissions control and reduction in the waste sector to meet national Kyoto targets is clear. So too is the intention of the Government to review progress towards the end of the Pre-Commitment period (2005-07) and to introduce further measures if the interim targets are not being met or good progress is not being made towards them.

In the latter half of 2003, Government showed its commitment to these targets by releasing emission units to two national power companies to subsidise the construction of renewable energy power generation plants – both wind powered. These projects would not otherwise have been economically viable at current fossil fuel costs. Government also tendered through the NZ Climate Change Office 4 million emission units (AAUs under the Kyoto Protocol) on the open market, calling for projects that reduced GHG emissions, reduced waste generation, produced energy from renewable sources (such as biomass), or improved the energy efficiency of energyintensive processes – such as wastewater treatment. Successful tenders had to meet “better than business as usual” additionality criteria in a set of evaluation rules.

Lastly, the New Zealand Government has adopted a programme of action for sustainable development that is spread across all units of national and local government, and is intended as a “lead by example” for all sectors of the economy. It seeks to ensure that sustainable development concepts underpin all government activity and that government decisions ensure the wellbeing of current and future generations.

Through the Resource Management Act (1991) - the national act moderating the use and management of all natural resources - and the four national strategies and policies described in this paper, New Zealand has integrated stewardship of our environment to meet its global responsibilities and maintain and enhance its “100% Natural” water environment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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