Emissions report shows progress, and the work ahead

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineApril 16, 2020

New Zealand is making limited progress to reduce its emissions, but not nearly quickly enough, Climate Change minister James Shaw says.

In response to the release of the latest annual inventory of New Zealand‘s greenhouse gases, Shaw said the report gives the most up-to-date picture of how much New Zealand still has to do to solve climate change.

“Right now, people are understandably worried about their immediate future, which is why we must continue to do everything we can to reduce the economic pressures people and business up and down the country are facing. However, we can do that in a way that also helps the climate.”

Net emissions fell by 3 percent in 2018 compared with 2017 levels. Gross emissions in 2018 decreased by 1 percent on 2017 levels. However, between 1990 and 2018, gross emissions increased by 24 percent.

Measures introduced by this Government to help drive down emissions include the Zero Carbon Act; the creation of the Climate Change Commission; reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme; the first set of emissions budgets; billions of dollars invested in rail, light rail, buses, walking and cycling infrastructure; a Joint Action Plan for Primary Sector Emissions; the Billion Trees programme; and the end of new offshore fossil fuel exploration.

“When we look at the pathway to zero net emissions by 2050, there are two things that stand out from this report – firstly, we have a long way to go, but secondly, that the scale of what is required goes beyond what current policies will achieve,” Shaw said.

The report does not show what impact the Covid-19 outbreak has had on New Zealand‘s emissions. However, the fact economic growth increased by 3.2 percent from 2017-18 – the same period emissions fell – suggests it is possible to ally the post-Covid-19 economic recovery with measures to solve climate change.

“We have an opportunity to change the quality of our economic growth and reduce its impact on the climate. Our goal is to transition to a net-zero carbon economy in a way that gives people good job opportunities and certainty about how they will provide for their families,” Shaw said.

The New Zealand Greenhouse Gas Inventory tracks human-generated emissions and removals that have occurred in New Zealand since 1990. It covers carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases.

The Inventory is one of New Zealand‘s mandatory reporting obligations under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. It takes about 15 months to collect and analyse the data for each year and prepare it for publication, therefore the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak on emissions won‘t be fully known until the inventory submission published in 2022.

In 2018, the agriculture and energy sectors were the two largest contributors to New Zealand‘s greenhouse gas emissions, at 48 percent and 41 percent respectively. Increases in emissions from dairy cattle and road transport remain the largest contributors to the growth in emissions since 1990.

A copy of the full inventory report and a snapshot is available here: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/climate-change/state-of-our-atmosphere-and-climate/new-zealands-greenhouse-gas-inventory