This weekend, Labour fired the starting gun on their election campaign by offering a glimpse of their vision for rebuilding the nation's economy.
Bruised from the debate that engulfed last week’s budget cuts, the opposition party have set about putting some distance between themselves and John Key's slash and burn approach to the economy by articulating a cleaner, smarter vision for our future.
There's no question that the Government's budget was a missed opportunity to create jobs and stimulate sustainable economic recovery by failing to signal investment in our home grown potential in the clean energy sector. Instead, the Government chose to back the nation’s biggest polluters to the tune of nearly a billion dollars of taxpayer’s money, and in doing so deny Kiwi clean tech businesses their rightful share of the global economic bonanza in clean energy.
And this was disappointing as it flies in the face of what other Governments around the world are doing. Despite the fragile state of its economy, and amid pledges to cut the deficit as fast as possible, the UK's top brass will this week announce plans for a Green Investment Bank, as they turn to low carbon technologies to help boost their recovery.
And this is not an isolated case. Around the world, countries such as China, India, South Korea and the EU are rapidly redesigning their economies to embrace a cleaner way of doing business, and are reaping the huge financial rewards as more money is now invested globally in clean energy than in fossil fuels.
So it's welcome that Labour has been giving some thought to how our trading partners are picking themselves up off the canvas and rebuilding their economies. By proposing to bring agriculture under the ETS in 2013 and leverage upwards of $800 million for investment in our home grown innovators in clean technology, Labour are starting to grasp what action is needed to create new, greener, more viable growth here in New Zealand. It is after all only fair that the polluter pays and the monies used to invest in diversifying and strengthening our economy.
And let’s not forget that this is just the tip of the iceberg. According to PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC), right now New Zealand’s potential market share in a low carbon economy could be worth as much as $22 billion annually.
Only the coming months will tell whether Labour has the ability to challenge Government with their vision for a cleaner, more prosperous future. It has to be more than just narrative or political opportunism, but about integrity and commitment to deliver. It’s stance on deepwater oil drilling, for example, is a key test, not only because it threatens to make these words seem hollow, but also risks delaying action to improve New Zealand’s energy security and tackle climate change - the two key tenets of a clean economy. Never has that old adage involving cake and eating it seemed more appropriate.
But it's important that our potential as clean technology leaders becomes part of the fabric of political debate. Indeed, it should be a pre-requisite for any Government looking to respond to the challenges of the 21st Century. By redesigning our economic development to incubate, support and unleash Kiwi innovation on the world, we will not only restore integrity to our clean, green reputation but flood our economy with investment in world-beating sustainable energy solutions.