New Zealand's carbon zero commitment
New Zealand - a land of four million people - is a country that's punching well above its weight when it comes to helping the environment and working towards reducing carbon emissions.
Despite producing just 0.2 percent of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions, New Zealand has been one of the first countries to pledge a carbon-neutral future.
Former prime minister Helen Clark has developed a series of targets, the first of which includes making six of the government's 34 agencies carbon neutral by 2012.
Already other organisations, from energy suppliers to wine producers, have jumped on the carbon zero bandwagon.
Companies committed to the environment
The New Zealand Wine Company, producers of Grove Mill and Sanctuary wines, is the first company in the world to offer carbon neutral wine and has become a dedicated advocate for the carboNZero programme. Many vineyards and wineries around the country are now following their lead.
In 2007 power company Meridian Energy announced their carboNZero certification, followed by tourism and transport operator Intercity Group announcing its plans towards carbon neutrality.
An increasing number of organisations and events claim to be carboNZero certified or actively working towards certification.
World Environment Day 2008
New Zealand was chosen as international host for the 2008 World Environment Day conference which focused on solutions and opportunities for countries, companies and communities to 'kick the habit' and de-carbonize economies and life-styles.
UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner said, "New Zealand is among a handful of countries committed to accelerating a transition to a low carbon and carbon-neutral economy."
World Environment Day was first established in 1972 and is held on June 5 each year in a different location.
The main World Environment Day 2008 celebrations were held in the capital city Wellington, and in communities around the country.
New Zealand's commitment to the environment
New Zealand's plants and animals have developed during 80 million years of isolation. These islands, fragments from the super continent of Gondwana, have witnessed the evolution of species so distinctive that scientists have described New Zealand as the closest you can get to studying life on another planet.
The uniqueness of much of New Zealand's biodiversity means the responsibility for its continued existence is entirely up to New Zealanders; it cannot be conserved in nature anywhere else.
Today more than 30 percent of New Zealand’s land has been set aside in national parks, reserves and special heritage sites to preserve the country's ecological heritage. This unspoiled natural environment attracts huge numbers of overseas visitors, yet tourism also has an impact on the environment that tourists come to experience.
Limiting the effects of tourism
In the face of its ever-growing popularity as a holiday destination, New Zealand is committed to 'destination maintenance' by:
- promoting geotourism which builds on the principles of sustainable tourism by emphasising the distinctiveness of the country's environment, culture, heritage, aesthetics and the well-being of its citizens
- promoting shoulder seasons to the overseas market to relieve the strain on resources during peak periods
- linking destination marketing to destination management to balance the aspirations of conservation, local communities and the tourism industry. New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) is a world leader in asset management, with half its budget going on recreation infrastructure, the other half on maintaining the environment
- preventing extinctions through land and marine sanctuaries, bans on set netting and the eradication of pests, such as rodents on Campbell Island and stoats on Secretary Island - both world firsts. This comes under the jurisdiction of DOC, as well as individual operators
- rewarding operators who actively participate in trapping and other conservation programmes, or promote interpretative excellence and educate others about issues and the environment.
In order to continue to be successful in tourism, many individuals, operators, communities and regions now incorporate sustainable business practices into their operations.
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