NZ, a beautiful yet isolated island nation is currently trying to eliminate COVID-19. This has meant only essential services and essential travel. Most businesses were shut down and we were working remotely or not all. The roads and streets were empty whilst the virus death toll reduced. As we begin to re-awaken, and businesses reopen, we are treading the fine line between health and economy, which is almost at a standstill, whilst the environment and the health of the nation is thriving.
While we were in lockdown we began planning for a new normal. We have a real opportunity to re-balance and re-shape New Zealand’s future in these unprecedented times. If we want to achieve a sustainable and net zero emissions future for New Zealand we will need to take the following five steps:
1) Vision and leadership - a clear, consistent and predictable vision for an emission-free New Zealand, set at a national level, is critical to success. This includes decarbonisation and emission policies, pathway and targets including clear dates for implementation and interim targets.
2) Data, information and communication - Having access to high quality information and communication technologies, like good broadband services, is crucial, regardless of how the future unfolds. Such services are necessary to overcome social isolation and to connect individuals, businesses and services, and enable people to make more informed sustainable travel choices and reduce the need for unnecessary travel.
3) Technology, innovation and trials - If a transition to an emissions-free future is to be a practical reality a total-system approach needs to be taken across transport, energy, water, waste and communications infrastructure. Specifically, interdependencies and technology availability need to be identified and tested to allow the transition to happen successfully.
4) Re-visiting finance and investment - Making the financial case for an emission-free New Zealand is critical. Those aspects that can be implemented straight away will need immediate focus. New mechanisms and innovation will also need to be identified.
5) Collaboration – During times of plenty, it is easy to work in silos. However, we are better together. Working together from governments to businesses to individuals allows us to maximise resources, ideas and funding. Unprecedented events force people to work together, increase our sense of belonging and purpose and allow us to achieve targets and actions more quickly than as individuals.
COVID-19 has shown us that we can’t take life or our economic system for granted and that we must use the opportunity this crisis presents to take positive action and shape a better future for New Zealand.