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At an unprecedented time in history, where the global consciousness has shifted to a growing awareness of environmental degradation over the last century, the world is waking up to a need for curbed carbon emissions, sustainable energy systems and reduced consumption, as we attempt to restore, preserve and protect the world we call home.

In essence, the Māori worldview, Kaitiakitanga, and the principles that underpin it, are now very much driving the global effort to rethink our relationship with, and role on planet earth, guiding the efforts of those at the forefront of this movement as they attempt to usher in much needed change. One such person is Dr. Carly Green, PhD in Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Climate Change industry veteran, having worked in the space of greenhouse gasses methodology, climate change responses and sustainable land use practices for close to 20 years. A proud Wānaka citizen, having moved with her family to the Lake Hāwea region 15 years ago, she runs a small environmental accounting service from the area, helping businesses learn, pivot and plan for a more sustainable future.

Recently, we sat down with Carly to chat about her background, the current state of climate change initiatives in NZ and programs like Wao (Māori for forest), a community non-profit climate action initiative accelerating NZ’s push toward sustainability.

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In 2016, the Paris Agreement was signed into effect; a watershed moment in the global effort to limit our rising global temperature to 2°C, by way of reduced carbon consumption and emissions around the world. An essential turning point, this initiative saw governments in over 197 countries implement strategies to meet this target. New Zealand’s own goal has been a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050 via the Zero Carbon Act, through reduced energy and fossil fuel consumption; something that will have a direct effect on individuals and businesses.

“The main way this will affect Kiwis is the Emissions Trading Scheme,” says Carly. “The price of fossil fuels will increase and the cost of electricity will increase unless we can get more renewables into the market. It’s important here to understand where the key energy expenditure is happening in our businesses and reduce them to have a positive impact on climate change.”

This is one of the key objectives of the Climate Action Initiative, rolled out through WAO and funded by parties like Lake Wānaka Tourism and Destination Queenstown. The 3-month programme has attracted local businesses across Wānaka and Queenstown, within the tourism, accommodation, hospitality, food and beverage, and creative/professional services industries, to incredible results. By connecting with businesses, and helping them to determine where emissions are coming from and how to reduce them, the goal is to bring everyone on board, through Mahi Tahi (collaboration) and Whanui (community). As with the Māori worldview of Kaitiakitanga, consideration of role and responsibility can be a fundamental driver of collective action. 

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“Our aim was to have 30 people involved in the program,” says Carly. “We immediately had over 60 businesses get in touch, a testament to the community and proactivity of those in Lake Wānaka.”

With this willingness to take action, the second pillar of the Climate Action Initiative seemed to already exist as a shared desire of the wider Wānaka community, with the practical understanding of emissions-needs able to be solved by working directly with business owners concerned with reductions. 

“The next phase is all about implementing change,” Carly says. Again, the Wānaka community have been forthcoming and enthusiastic, with many seeking to collaborate and take ideas from other businesses. With many of the businesses related to the Tourism sector, they are able to be grouped together to collaboratively find solutions.

“It’s incredibly inspiring,” she says. “The Wānaka community are willing to share, connect and develop common ideas through in-person collaboration. It’s really driving positive outcomes for the wider community.”

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the demand for change isn’t just being championed by Wānaka businesses. According to Carly, many businesses are finding the demand is coming from the Wānaka community.

“Customers and clients are becoming much more aware of their impact on the environment and want to connect with like-minded businesses who see the need for change as well.”

Carly sees this as an incredible benefit; the chance for businesses to connect more intimately with their clients and communities, by rallying around shared causes and values. At the end of the day, relationships strengthen and the business-customer relationship transcends the transactional, to one with collaboration at heart. Having been in the industry for 20 years, this is one of the very real indicators to Carly that achieving that 2°C target just might be possible. 

Up next for WAO is nationwide connectivity. They’re aware of what’s going on in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson and little pockets across New Zealand. With more of a national, climate-focused summit program, Carly believes they can bridge the gaps to pull everyone together and drive change not just in the Lake Wānaka or Queenstown district but as a nation. Through these efforts, our 2030 target may well be in sight. 

Carly’s story is yet another example of the unique individuals at the heart of Wānaka, driving our efforts towards regeneration and destination management. By understanding our place in the world, our communities and our roles within them, a sense of Kaitiakitanga and the duty of care we all have to the world around us can become second nature. Through these principles, as shown by Carly, it’s possible to inspire widespread change; the kind that grows and spreads throughout tight-knit communities, shaping a consciousness of care and a climate of collaboration towards a common goal.

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More on the WAO program

The Wao Climate Action Initiative is designed to enable local businesses and schools with the knowledge and tools to calculate their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and take action to reduce them. The programme is fully funded by QLDC, Destination Queenstown and Lake Wānaka Tourism and is free to join. Applications for the first round have now been filled, but if you would like to register your business for future programmes please email Carly and the team at [email protected]

Find out more about the program here: wao.co.nz/climateactioninitiative

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