New climate change report plots GHG progress

Environment accounts summary

A new way of reporting New Zealand’s progress on transition to a low emissions economy was released this week by Statistics NZ, showing greenhouse gas emissions rose to 2015, but less quickly than the economy in general. Primary industries have contributed to the result.

James Shaw, Minister of Climate ChangeThe first System of Environmental-Economic Accounts report aims to measure the interactions between the environment and the economy in a way that hasn’t been done before in New Zealand, Climate Change Minister and Associate Minister for Finance James Shaw claims.

The new environmental economic data will also help to explore whether New Zealand is sustaining its environmental assets for future generations, he says.

“This is a crucial step in gathering together the kind of information government, business and the primary sector need for good decision-making around sustainable low emissions ways of operating.”

The report shows New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) rose 24 percent in the past 25 years to 2015, but grew more slowly than the economy in general.

Economy-wide, GHG rose from 1990 to 2015 from 61 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e – a way of expressing different types of GHGs to compare their global warming potential) in 1990 to about 76 million tonnes in 2015, the latest available period. New Zealand’s emissions from economic activity (excluding emissions and removals from land-use change and the forestry sector) hit a peak in 2005, declined until 2009, and rose moderately after that.

The rate of increase in GHG emissions however, including CO2 from burning fossil fuels and methane from agriculture, was slower than the rate of increase in GDP leading to a decline in GHG intensity.

What it shows is that “New Zealand is producing more greenhouse gases but is being much more efficient in doing so,” says Statistics NZ environment-economic statistics manager Michele Lloyd.

Key points from the report include that: New Zealand’s emissions amount to about 0.17 percent of the world’s total; primary industries, such as agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining accounted for 57.1 percent of New Zealand’s carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2015, but 61.4 percent of industry emissions, which was mainly due to methane emissions from agriculture. This shows a much higher amount of emissions per unit of GDP. The report also notes that between 1990 to 2015, agriculture’s CO2e increased by 0.6 percent a year, while GDP increased by 1.4 percent a year.

The report which covers the period up to 2015-2016 includes physical and monetary estimates of natural capital, emissions flows from the economy to the environment and environmental activity accounts.

Future reports should reflect the work put in by this sector on mitigating emissions, including those from livestock.



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