Climate change might seem like the green buzz word of the 21st Century, but, sadly, the reality is far more grim. It’s the biggest environmental challenge of our time, and something that we need to face head on if we’re to protect our world for the generations to come.
At Flick, we’re ambitious for action on climate change. We’re part of an industry that has a big role to play in cutting carbon emissions and educating Kiwis along the way. We’re also aware that the sooner we act to create a future that is low-emission, the sooner these changes will take root and become the norm for all of us - and the better it is for our society, our economy, and our precious planet.
First things first - what is climate change?
Also known as global warming, the term ‘climate change’ is pretty literal - it’s a change in the Earth’s ‘usual’ climate. The Earth’s atmosphere contains greenhouse gases, like methane and carbon dioxide, which help trap the sun’s heat inside our atmosphere, so that it’s toasty and warm, and life on Earth can grow. But when greenhouse gas levels increase too much, they trap more and more heat. That eventually pushes up the Earth’s temperature, and leads to a change in our climate.
Is climate change even real, though…?
According to the Ministry for the Environment (MfE), and 150 years of science and research, climate change is a very real problem (sorry, Donald). MfE states that, while some climate change is natural, it’s usually gradual, and that means that flora and fauna species are able to adapt. But data shows that our climate is, now, rapidly changing - we’re seeing higher sea levels, higher land temperatures, glacial melt, and more extreme weather events due to changes in rainfall patterns.
So what’s causing climate change?
Thanks to humans and our love of industry and production, greenhouse gases have increased significantly over the last 150 years. In fact, humans are having such a significant impact on the planet that there is a general consensus in the scientific community that we’re now in a geological era known as the Anthropocene. This means that human activity has been, and remains, the dominant influence on climate and the environment. That’s a first in the known geological history of Earth. As MfE states, carbon dioxide and methane levels are the highest they’ve been in 800,000 years - crickey! Our biggest contributors here in NZ? Dairy cattle, road transport, chemical industry and food processing, agricultural soils, and refrigeration and air-conditioning systems (check out NZ’s latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
OK - so what changes will we see around NZ if we carry on the way we are?
If we do nothing, it’s thought that surface temperatures will increase between 3.7°C and 4.8°C by 2100, and here in NZ the implications are likely to be felt far and wide. According to Niwa and MfE, these could include an increase in severe weather conditions, like storms, droughts, and flooding, an increase in subtropical diseases and pests, lower river and hydrolake levels (and an associated decrease in water quality), and a rise in sea levels and coastal erosion (in fact, some beachfront communities could be wiped out, or at least become completely uninsurable). Native species of animals and plants, which are likely to find it difficult to adapt to the rapid temperature increase, may also become extinct. You can check out the government’s full list of likely effects.
Well, it’s all a bit gloomy, isn’t it?
It can seem that way. After all, we’ve really pushed our beautiful Earth to her limit. But a cleaner, greener, healthier planet is within our reach - according to MfE, by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 per cent by 2050, the average warming is likely to stay below 2°C. We have a chance to remain within the planet’s boundaries (you can geek out about those on the Stolkholm Resilience Centre site.) But we’ve all got to do our part.
So what’s NZ doing to help?
Our government has been part of some big international discussions around climate change, through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), its Kyoto Protocol, and the 2016 Paris agreement (the global agreement on climate change). We’re making the move towards a low-emissions NZ, with the goal of cutting our carbon emissions by 11 per cent by 2030.
The Sustainable Business Council is also working to unite Kiwi businesses to tackle climate change together, through leadership, legislation and policy. In October 2017, 14 CEOs (from companies like Air NZ, The Warehouse, Z Energy and Spark) created the Climate Leaders Coalition and Statement, to highlight the seriousness of our climate change situation and to encourage other Kiwi businesses to answer the climate change call. The Climate Leaders Coalition and Statement now has 84 signatories, including us here at Flick. Woohoo!
What does the Climate Leaders Statement say?
It outlines the commitments that these businesses are making, and in-house steps that they’re taking, to ensure climate change is taken seriously. That includes things like measuring their greenhouse gas emissions and reporting on them publicly, supporting the Paris Agreement, and supporting policy and legislation that will help ensure New Zealand reaches our climate change goals. Click here for all the details.
Wow - go NZ! So what’s Flick doing to help?
Here at Flick, we’ve put a big target on the carbon emissions we’re creating through the electricity industry. A good number of Kiwis don’t realise just how much of an impact their electricity use has on NZ’s carbon emissions, or that they have the ability to influence the carbon emissions our electricity is producing. We each have the power to change these things - neat, huh?
So we’re dedicated to giving New Zealanders real choice when it comes to issues of sustainability and climate change. Our spot price product, Freestyle, allows our customers to choose the times of day that they want to use their electricity, based on the spot price of power. Thanks to supply and demand, the wholesale market is closely linked to the type of generation we’re using - power’s usually cheaper during off-peak times when our cleaner, renewable energy can provide what we need, and it’s more expensive during periods of high demand when fossil fuels are brought in to the mix to ensure there’s enough. It’s interesting stuff - have a read of our spot price blog, or generation blog for more.
Then there’s our carbon-counter CHOICE - it’s a world-first product that gives Kiwis live updates about the carbon impact of our electricity use, and sends alerts so they know when to switch things on and off to reduce our carbon impact. But the real gem? It also gives Flick customers information about their personal carbon footprint, measured in farting goats (of course), so they can see how much carbon their power use contributes. Plus, Flicksters can also choose to offset their carbon use by making a donation to the wonderful charity, Trees That Count. #FlickYeah!
What else? We’re also super stoked to be carboNZero certified, too, which means that we’re carbon neutral. Our business is audited each year to check that we’re complying with the standards, and that’s meant some serious hard work to cut down our carbon emissions from things like travel, landfill waste and electricity use. We also offset some of our unavoidable carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits that are used to regenerate areas of native bush here in NZ. Our own company emissions for 2018 were 52.86 tCO2e, and this year we’re making a big push to improve on 2018’s overall reduction of 5.43tCO2e/$M. We’ll keep you posted on our progress!
And, of course, we’re also using this as a big opportunity to share what we know, and what we’re learning, with our customers. Knowledge is power in our view, so you can expect more of the same when it comes to the information we share - blogs and online content that are open, honest and informative about Flick’s own climate change journey, and what it all means for us here in New Zealand.
But we’re not finished yet. Even though we’ve got a few tools to tackle climate change under our belt, we know there’s so much more to do - it’s a global challenge that won’t be a quick or easy fix. Action is the only way forward, and we intend to play a big part in NZ’s low-emissions future. Will you join us?
Want to know how you can make a difference when it comes to your electricity carbon emissions? It’s easier than you think - have a read of our sustainable changes!