Growing environmental awareness
In the early 2000s the government, consumers and companies put more emphasis on the environmental credentials of their activities. Many companies recognised that they could make money out of being green – or appearing to be green. Critics said this was merely ‘greenwashing’, a way of marketing products. However, for some businesses it was driven by genuine concerns about environmental sustainability and climate change.
Brand New Zealand and tourism
Tourism marketers have promoted New Zealand internationally as a ‘clean, green’ country. This phrase came into general usage in the late 1980s, but it echoes an older expression of colonial nationalism that saw New Zealand as a land of natural abundance.
The symbolism became so ingrained that it was in effect a national ‘brand’. The New Zealand Tourism Board began its ‘100% Pure’ campaign in 1999. It highlighted not only magnificent scenery, but also the country’s relative emptiness, its uncrowded vistas and clear, bright horizons. The 2007 version of this campaign, ‘Forever young’, played on the apparent youthfulness of the land and its people.
In 2007 Prime Minister Helen Clark committed the New Zealand public service to the goal of ‘carbon neutrality’. This meant that the operations of central government should not be net contributors of carbon to the atmosphere.
Six lead ministries and departments were to be carbon-neutral by 2012, with all others being well on the way by then. Each was required to post a carbon emissions inventory as the basis for emissions reduction. The balance of emissions needed to be offset with the purchase of carbon credits in accredited New Zealand schemes – the regeneration of native bush was a popular choice. Such schemes were verified through the ‘carboNZero’ programme run by Landcare Research, a Crown research institute.
The government went further, declaring that all of New Zealand should aspire to being carbon-neutral by an unspecified date, making it one of the first countries to aim for this. To be successful, all activities in the economy would have to be subject to a carbon inventory, with follow-up programmes of reduction and offsetting. The underlying intention was to protect New Zealand’s trade in a world where environmentally focused trade barriers were becoming more common.