New Zealand's household emissions increase by 20% in 10 years

Author
NZ Herald / Newstalk ZB,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Thursday, 27 June 2019, 6:46PM

Kiwis have been failing at keeping their greenhouse gas emissions in check - prompting one expert to question why we can't perform at climate action like we do on the cricket pitch.

Figures released by Stats NZ today showed that household emissions jumped 19.3 per cent from 2007 to 2017, mainly due to rising emissions from road transport.

Those emissions had been rising partly on the back of an increasing number of tourists using vehicles.

In 2017, households accounted for some 11 per cent of total emissions - up from nine per cent a decade before - with the rest coming from industry.

Stats NZ's senior manager collaborative development Michele Lloyd said Kiwi households were becoming less efficient at managing their emissions.

Total emissions dropped by 0.9 per cent over the 10-year-period, when industry emissions fell by 2.9 per cent - yet much of those gains had been lost through what was coming from households.

The report showed the biggest drops in industry emissions had come from the electricity, gas, water, and waste service industry sectors.

That was partly due to increased use of renewable energy sources - particularly geothermal and wind - while its economic activity continued to grow over the period.

In 2017, the largest contributors to total industry emissions were sheep, beef, cattle, and grain farming; dairy cattle farming; electricity and gas supply; and rail, water, air, and other transport.

Dairy cattle farming was the only agriculture industry to record an increase in emissions over 2007–17, up 27.7 per cent, which was the largest increase of all industries.

Overall, in the 2007–17 period, emissions from the agriculture industry decreased 0.1 per cent a year on average, while its contribution to GDP, in real terms, grew at a rate of 1.8 per cent a year.

"While our overall emissions intensity has been trending down, the amount of emissions we produce for each million dollars of GDP is in the top third of developed nations, due to the significant amount of methane emitted by agriculture," Lloyd said.

"However, when looking at just carbon dioxide, New Zealand is in the bottom third of these countries."

Massey University Professor Emeritus Ralph Sims said the "hugely challenging" problem of climate change had been understood for many years.

"So it is deeply concerning that New Zealand has not been able to 'bend the curve downwards' in that our annual greenhouse gas emissions keep rising."

Sims said the continuing growth in overall transport emissions was largely due to Kiwis' love of the car.

"Given that annual SUV sales continue to grow, and the life of a car is 15 to 20 years, government intervention is long overdue to encourage the purchase of low-emitting vehicles," he said.

"The present policy to encourage electric vehicles is a mere token and a lot more is needed to penalise the large emitters and hence reduce demand for such vehicles."

Sims also noted how agricultural emissions intensity had declined slightly - mainly through increasing productivity on the farm.

"However, it will be decades before any current research outputs to reduce methane or nitrous oxide emissions from animals will have a real impact," he said.

"So overall we have a major problem to resolve rapidly.

"The pending climate change legislation - long overdue - will be essential to start to bring our emissions down but it will need strong regulations urgently imposed to make a difference in the short term – and time is running out.

"International pressure is already growing for New Zealand to do more.

"If only we could attract greater public attention for the problem and thereby gain a high international reputation for our efforts akin to what the Black Caps have achieved in the World Cricket Cup.

"Is winning a game of cricket really more important than our children's future?"

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