As leaders meet in person this week at the first Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in over 3 years, the agenda for discussion is sizeable. One significant agenda item is action on the climate crisis.
Australia is the world's 14th highest emitter, contributing just over 1% of global emissions. Australia recently submitted a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), after the Albanese Government gave notice that it was updating its commitment to reducing the country's emissions to 43% below 2005 levels by 2030.
New Zealand has quite a different emissions profile to Australia. Roughly 80% of its electricity is produced from renewable sources thanks to its longstanding hydro and geothermal assets, though renewables account for substantially less of its primary energy mix at 40%.
Like Australia, New Zealand is among the world’s highest per capita emitters. According to Climate Tracker, neither country has set a framework that is consistent with a 1.5 degree target under the Paris Agreement.
So given the climate challenge is their renewed opportunity as both countries' leaders meet to create future collaboration on significant climate mitigation and adaptation issues, how can Australia and New Zealand work together on decarbonisation and what role should, and can, business play?
Well, perhaps we could pick up where we left off in earlier collaborative efforts on a climate partnership, and this time harness the power of business.
In July 2003, the Australian and New Zealand Governments announced a New Zealand - Australia Climate Change Partnership (the Partnership), built around five themes: engaging with business and local government on technology development, policy design and implementation; building on existing cooperation on energy efficiency; measuring and reducing emissions from the agricultural sector; further enhancing climate change science and monitoring; and working together with our Pacific Island neighbours to address the regional challenges posed by climate change. The first projects undertaken under the Partnership were announced at UNFCCC COP9 in December 2003.
Role of Trans-Tasman business
How can business help progress a Trans-Tasman decarbonisation agenda? Crucially, it is not just an issue of how to address carbon within our respective borders, but also across our borders.
As the leading business and sustainability organisations in our respective countries, the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia and Sustainable Business Council New Zealand want to encourage a re-affirmation of each country's commitment to the spirit and purpose of that Partnership, and for policymakers across the Tasman to work with the corporate and finance sectors to build on it so that it embraces:
a new post-Paris Agreement reality, including a dialogue on the harmonisation of the NZ ETS and the Australian Safeguard Mechanism, including the role of Natural Climate Solutions;
the role of new sustainable investment models and opportunities for sustainable trade;
support for the development and uptake of new and emerging low emissions technologies with practical collaboration, including the use of procurement;
the ambition and action of business to drive harmonisation and lowest-cost, in its efforts to drive collaborative programs to achieve Net Zero; and
the critical role of indigenous knowledge in addressing the climate crisis.
In this way, we think that we can truly "Trans - form" the ANZ economies, and even more critically, our natural environment and societies.
Mike Burrell I Sustainable Business Council New Zealand
Andrew Petersen I Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia