Emissions report shows progress, and the work ahead

  • Hon James Shaw
Climate Change

New Zealand is making limited progress to reduce its emissions, but not nearly quickly enough, the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, said today in response to the release of the latest annual inventory of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases.

“The report gives us the most up to date picture of how much we still have to do to solve climate change. Narrowing the gap between where we are now, and where we need to be, is the difference between handing our children a better world, or more crises in the future.

“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,” James Shaw said.

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

“For decades, successive governments acted with little regard for the impact they were having on the climate, but that changed under this Government. In our first two years we have taken more action on climate change than the past 30 years of governments combined,” James Shaw said.

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. Building on our track record of progress is going to be crucial if we are to solve climate change and create a better future for our kids and grandkids,” James Shaw said.

The report does not show what impact the COVID-19 outbreak has had on our 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 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,” James Shaw said.

More information

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 that is published in 2022.

In 2018, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions comprised of 44 percent carbon dioxide, 43 per cent methane, 10 per cent nitrous oxide and 2 per cent fluorinated gases. 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.