Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I'm partial to banging on about numbers. The business case for engaging with sustainability principles is a case in point.

One good thing about numbers is that they often allow the painting of a simple picture of complex issues.

The argument surrounding binding environmental targets is for me a clear indicator of where numbers prove practical.

The Kyoto Protocol binds ratifying nations to an emissions target. The US and (largely) Australia reject binding targets. The limited impact of the voluntary NZ Packaging Accord mirrors that of voluntary industry led initiatives elsewhere. Whether it be emissions or waste or both, numbers usually point to mandatory obligations being the only real means of lowering impact.

Last week the Herald reported that nearly 80% of Kiwis "believed they needed to make lifestyle changes to reduce global warming". Labour (and whoever runs the show from 2008) have numerous polls to call on. Mandatory obligations on our producers and consumers are not the political hot potato that they once were.

Voters now accept that they need to make change - so economic incentives to promote pro-environment behaviour is sensible. Public opinion is clear (790kb pdf) and studies advocate a mandatory approach. Government can and should (en)act.

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