Emissions report shows urgent action needed

Every part of Government will need to take urgent action to bring down emissions, the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw said today in response to the recent rise in New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions.

The latest annual inventory of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions shows that both gross and net emissions increased by 2 percent in the 12 months from the end of 2018.

“We’ve known about the potential impacts of global warming for decades, and yet it is only this Government that has taken action to cut New Zealand’s emissions. Whilst we can see from this report that we are acting in the right areas, it also shows we need to step up our response. The time for delay is over,” James Shaw said.

The Ministry for the Environment’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory is the official annual estimate of greenhouse gas emissions and removals in New Zealand since 1990. The report released today includes emissions estimates up to the end of 2019.

The report released today includes emissions estimates up to the end of 2019. It therefore doesn’t show the impact of measures introduced by the Government since 2019. These include the clean car standard; a ban on coal-fired boilers; putting a cap on the Emissions Trading Scheme (meaning emissions must fall every year); replacing coal-fired boilers in schools and hospitals; and investing billions in new rail, buses, cycle-ways and walking infrastructure.

“Last week thousands of young people joined the latest School Strike for Climate to remind us of this – and to call for urgent action to address the climate emergency we declared last year. Today we can see that they are right to be concerned.

“Whereas the period from 2018 to 2019 has taken us further away from meeting the targets we committed to in law, on average New Zealand’s emissions have remained flat for the last fifteen years.

“What this makes absolutely clear is that every part of Government must now come together and help to deliver an Emissions Reduction Plan in line with what the Climate Change Commission recommends. If we can do that, then we can reverse the current trend and finally bring emissions down in line with what the science requires. That plan will need to cover every part of the economy – including, but not limited to, finance, energy, transport, and agriculture.

“When the Climate Change Commission released its draft advice in January I said that, because of the legislative and institutional framework we have put in place and the roadmap the Commission had provided, I had never felt more confident that a climate-friendly, prosperous future for New Zealand was within reach.

“Whether or not we get there is going to depend on the decisions that we make over the next few years. Our best chance to take the actions that will bring emissions down is now; and we clearly have a lot to do,” James Shaw said.

The increase in New Zealand emissions in 2018 are mainly due to emission increases in manufacturing industries and construction, public electricity and heat production.

“The fact that emissions increased in these sectors shows that the Government was right last week to announce a ban on new coal-fired boilers and plans to phase-out existing coal-fired boilers by 2037, as well as transitioning away from the use of other fossil fuels,” James Shaw said.

Further information

Gross emissions refers to New Zealand’s total emissions. Net emissions are gross emissions minus emission removals from land use, land use change, and forestry.

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 four current greenhouse gas emissions statistics. The others are:

  • Stats NZ’s experimental quarterly estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which, because of the time lag producing the Greenhouse Gas Inventory provides more timely data on New Zealand’s production-based emissions. The latest release was published on 8 April.
  • Greenhouse gases by industries and households. This covers only gross emissions. It works by reconfiguring inventory data to provide information on ‘who’ within the economy is emitting, and is designed to understand the economic and social context of emissions
  • Consumption-based emissions, which shows emissions embodied in goods and services consumed by economic residents

The 2021 Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows gross emissions were 82.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 2019, up 2 per cent from 2018. New Zealand’s net emissions in 2019 were 54.9 Mt CO2-e, which is also an increase of 2 per cent from 2018.

Gross emissions in 2019 comprised 46 per cent carbon dioxide, 42 per cent methane, 10 per cent nitrous oxide and 2 per cent fluorinated gases. Agriculture and energy sectors were the two largest contributors to New Zealand’s gross emissions in 2019, at 48 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively.

Between 1990 and 2019, gross emissions increased by 26 per cent (17.2 Mt CO2-e). This increase is mostly due to increases in methane from dairy cattle digestive systems and carbon dioxide from road transport.

The Inventory is one of New Zealand’s mandatory reporting obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

A copy of the full inventory report is available here.

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 will not be fully known until the inventory submission due in 2022.

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