05 July, 2018

Businesses want action on climate change but disagree about method

Seven out of 10 Kiwi businesses want New Zealand to take action on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, however they’re split over how this should be achieved, according to new research commissioned by Westpac NZ.

Farmers were less likely to support climate action than other businesses, with three out of five predicting a negative impact on their business under a comprehensive Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

The findings emerged in a nationally representative survey of more than 1,200 business leaders and come as the Government consults on its Zero Carbon Bill.

Westpac NZ general manager of commercial, corporate and institutional banking, Karen Silk, said 70% of respondents thought New Zealand should move to reduce emissions, while 11% disagreed and 19% were undecided or didn’t know.

“It’s great to see that the majority of business leaders are taking the same position as Westpac – that we need to ramp up efforts to move to a low carbon future.

“However, the businesses we surveyed were split over how that should be done, with some favouring voluntary action and others preferring a ban on high-emissions activities or research into carbon-saving technology.

“This range of views probably reflects the fact that there are no easy answers when it comes to climate change.”

Ms Silk said 19% of agricultural businesses opposed New Zealand taking action to reduce emissions, while 61% of them predicted a comprehensive ETS would have a negative impact on their business.

Farmers were more likely than average to support voluntary actions to curb emissions and less likely to endorse a ban on high-emission activities or the continuation of the current ETS.

Ms Silk said businesses run by millennials were more likely to recognise humans’ contribution to global warming and were more likely to want action than older age groups.

“This sizeable generation gap was also evident in other responses. For example, 44% of under-35 business leaders think a comprehensive ETS would have a positive impact on their businesses, compared to 12% of over-60s.”

The survey showed a degree of regional variation with 83% of Wellington businesses believing action should be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the national average of 70%.

36% of Northland businesses expected to be negatively affected by climate change, compared to a national average of 24%.

Ms Silk said Westpac supports the direction of the Government’s Zero Carbon Bill, including the establishment of a Climate Change Commission and the phased introduction of a comprehensive ETS that encompasses all sectors. Ms Silk encouraged New Zealanders to have their say on the Bill.

“As a specialist in minimising financial risks and maximising opportunities, we make it our business to advocate for market structures that foster sustainable growth, and that’s why we think we need to get cracking on climate change.

“We know from doing some recent work with EY and Vivid Economics that the economy could be $30 billion better off by 2050 if early action is taken to meet our Paris climate commitments, instead of putting it off for another day.”

The nationally representative online survey of 1269 business owners and senior managers was carried out by Nexus Research in February 2018 on behalf of Westpac NZ.