13 January 2016

NZ greenhouse gas emissions march steadily onwards and upwards to 2030

A previous post was about an inaugural press release from the new Minister for Climate Change Paula Bennett.


From a public relations point of view Bennett's release aimed to sow and spread and cultivate 'talking points' that support the Government's preferred climate policy narrative. Which is of course that:

New Zealand is doing enough on reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. New Zealand complies with its climate target obligations (via 'carbon credits') under the Kyoto Protocol and the UNFCCC. New Zealand has a moderated balanced emissions trading scheme and is doing research on agriculture and helping out in the Pacific and 'punching above our weight' in the international negotiations. All in all New Zealand is doing enough about climate change!

However, New Zealand (irrespective of who was in Government) has historically always sought to use loopholes to comply with emission reduction targets.

So for the talking point "We are meeting our obligations", the reality is "we used creative carbon accounting to obscure the fact that gross and net emissions of greenhouse gases have increased by 21% and 42% since 1990 respectively".

One of the reports referred to by Paula Bennett was the Second Bienial Report to the UNFCCC. This included a spreadsheet of data on projected New Zealand emissions until 2030. So of course I had to create a graph of it.

NZ greenhouse gases by sector

The creative commons license is CC BY-SA 4.0

I used the R programming language and the script is available on the Wikimedia Commons page. Anyone is free to use the graph, it is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence, via Wikimedia Commons

Categorising the emissions by sectors of the economy makes it very clear that pastoral agriculture by far and away contributes more than any other sector. Emissions from agriculture are twice as large as the second largest sector, energy. I added the projected growth of each industry sector by percent since 1990; agriculture, + 22%; energy, + 19%; transport + 60%; industry + 101%; waste, + 4%.

The upward emissions trend is in stark contrast to the Ministry for the Environment's web page on how New Zealand is meeting the 2020 emissions reduction target.

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