Latest greenhouse gas figures show a rise in emissions

12 April 2018


The latest inventory of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions shows that, as at 2016, there had been a 19.6 percent increase in emissions on 1990 levels, Climate Change Minister James Shaw has announced.

The inventory gives a picture of how much human-generated greenhouse gas is being emitted into and removed from our atmosphere – and shows there’s still much to be done to reduce emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Gross emissions in 2016 were 78.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – 2.4 percent lower than 2015.

“Urgent action is needed, at a level not previously contemplated. 

“We all need to be focused on the transition to a net zero emissions economy,” says Mr Shaw.

“That is why the Government is introducing the Zero Carbon Bill, which will set in law a bold, new 2050 emissions reduction target for New Zealand and establish an independent Climate Change Commission.

“The Commission will recommend interim emissions reduction targets and provide advice. It will look at how we transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2035,” Minister Shaw says.

Methane from dairy cattle digestive systems and carbon dioxide from road transport were the biggest contributors to emissions increase. The agriculture and energy sectors contribute 49.2 per cent and 39.8 per cent respectively to New Zealand’s gross emissions.

Expansion in the dairy industry has largely led to the fertiliser and methane increases in the agricultural sector while more petrol and diesel vehicles on our roads are generating more emissions in the transport sector. 

“One of the things the Commission will look at is whether and how agriculture comes into the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. We’ll continue to invest in research and technology that can reduce agricultural emissions while increasing productivity and profitability for farmers.

Other ways we are reducing emissions include the establishment of a Green Investment Fund which will direct investment towards low-emissions industries. We’ll move to electric vehicles – the Government’s own car fleet will be electric by 2025.”

The inventory shows the long term emission rise is also partly due to the increasing number of trees being cut down. 

“The Government’s committed to planting one billion trees over the next 10 years.”

“If we want to help lead the world towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, we must create a moral mandate underpinned by decisive action at home to reduce our own emissions,” Mr Shaw says.

Key findings of the inventory:

  • New Zealand’s gross emissions have increased 19.6 per cent since 1990.
  • Methane from dairy cattle digestive systems and carbon dioxide from road transportation have contributed the most to this increase.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, gross emissions decreased by 2.4 per cent mainly from a decrease in the use of thermal fuels (coal and gas) and a decline in the number of sheep.
  • In 2016 the agriculture and energy sectors were the two largest contributors to New Zealand’s gross emissions, at 49.2 per cent and 39.8 per cent respectively.
  • The Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)* sector offsets nearly one third of New Zealand’s gross emissions
  • Net emissions have increased by 54.2 per cent since 1990 because of more trees being cut down and an increase in gross emissions.
  • In 2016, approximately 5099 hectares of new forest was planted and 4945 hectares deforested.

About the Greenhouse Gas inventory

Inventory data is NZ’s official GHG estimate and is used for domestic and international reporting, and enables us to track progress towards targets. Data from the inventory will be useful when we consult with New Zealanders about the upcoming Zero Carbon Bill. 

*The LULUCF sector is where greenhouse gases from using the land (e.g. for forests, crops and pasture) are kept track of. This is separate from the livestock emissions reported in the agriculture sector. It covers our use of soil, trees, plants, biomass and timber and is the only sector where carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere.

Further information

A snapshot of the Inventory

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