New Zealand aims to be greenest country

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The Independent Online

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has pledged that her small nation will be the first in the world to wipe out its contribution to climate change.

Ms Clark, leader of a country that prides itself on its green image, set New Zealand the ambitious goal of becoming "carbon neutral" - reducing its net emissions of greenhouse gases to zero.

She did not set a deadline, but told parliament yesterday in her first major speech of the year: "I believe New Zealand can aim to be the first nation to be truly sustainable across the four pillars of the economy, society, the environment and nationhood. I believe we can aspire to be carbon neutral in our economy and way of life."

They were bold words. But the South Pacific nation has a record of taking a stand on global issues. In 1984 the Labour government of David Lange introduced the world's first nuclear-free policy, banning all warships and submarines that were nuclear- powered or carrying nuclear weapons. The policy strained its alliance with the US, whose naval ships had a long history of visiting New Zealand ports. But it was popular with the voters and it has been kept in place by governments of every political shade.

Ms Clark committed New Zealand to more ambitious environmental targets than any other country has been prepared to consider. They included replacing 3.4 per cent of its gasoline and diesel sales with biofuels by 2012. Shepromised that the government would lead by example, with six departments committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2012 by reducing their emissions and offsetting them by planting trees.

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