13 Apr 2013

Greenhouse gas emissions 22% higher than 1990 levels

2:13 pm on 13 April 2013

New figures show New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions are at an all time high, but the country is still on course to reach commitments to the Kyoto Protocol.

The Ministry for the Environment has released the Greenhouse Gas Inventory which details emission levels and measures progress on the country's Kyoto target.

The report says New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 were 72.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, more than 22% higher than the level recorded in 1990.

However, it says the country is on course to meet its target for the first Kyoto commitment period of 2008 to 2012, although the final figures won't be ready for another year.

The Government is welcoming the assessment on the Kyoto target. Climate Change Minister Tim Groser says the report forecasts New Zealand will have a surplus of 29.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide for the 2008 to 2012 period.

Green Party climate change spokesperson Kennedy Graham says New Zealand is on track to reach the committment only because of large areas of forest planted in the 1990s.

"That is a five year period in which our forestry happened to absorb so much carbon that we can come in under the radar of our commitment, notwithstanding that our gross emissions have increased hugely from 60 million to 73 million in 21 years."

Dr Graham says once New Zealand begins deforestation, remaining forests won't be able to absorb the increasing levels of carbon emissions.

Agriculture was the largest contributor to New Zealand's emissions in 2011 , closely followed by the energy sector, the Greenhouse Gas Inventory said.

The four sources that contributed the most to the increase in total emissions since 1990 were emissions from dairy cattle, road transport, agricultural soils and release of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from industrial and household refrigerant and air-conditioning systems.