A Word from Bill Kaye-Blake, NZ Institute of Economics principal economist, based in Bannockburn


Time for getting region zero-carbon

Optimist or pessimist?

That’s a key question about climate change.

Last week, we got another major climate change report.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explained, again, what is happening to Earth’s climate and what the future could hold for us.

It said we need to stop producing greenhouse gases.

If we don’t, we will have more storms, more floods and more fires.

There is ample cause for pessimism.

For New Zealand, the big challenges are agriculture, transport and large-scale heating.

New Zealand’s Climate Change Commission has explained how the country can meet these challenges.

Its chairman, Rod Carr, said he was an optimist about them.

Central Otago is better placed than many regions to make changes. We have a diverse economy, a little of everything, so we can build on what’s here.

Take New Zealand’s agriculture.

Farming animals is a big source of climate change gases.

We need to improve animal agriculture and maybe do less of it.

Central already has a lot of horticulture.

We have the knowledge and infrastructure to compete with the rest of the world.

We have a base that offers an alternative to farming animals.

Transport is another concern. Of course, we drive a lot here and we use big vehicles for work and play.

There won’t be one big solution in Central.

A series of smaller changes, though, can add up.

Electric vehicles will be part of the process.

We will need plenty of charging stations wherever people are likely to be stopped for a while.

The other transport challenge is tourism. We depend on people flying here from around the world.

The key here is quality over quantity, getting fewer people to engage more with the region and spend more time.

The new bike trails are a great example.

Large-scale heating, things like boilers in schools, are a third challenge.

The biggest obstacle is a willingness to make a change. The rest is technical but solvable.

I spent a couple of days last week with researchers who have worked on climate change over the past four decades.

Nothing in the IPCC report was a surprise to them.

So what now? We know what needs doing. We can do it.

Maybe we move beyond optimism and pessimism into realism: we really get started turning Central Otago into a zero-carbon region.