25 Nov 2015

Household greenhouse gas emissions down - report

7:00 am on 25 November 2015

New Zealanders are becoming a little more green-conscious but there's more to do, a report says.

Recycling bins

Recycling bins Photo: Wellington City Council

Non-profit research institute Motu said average household greenhouse gas emissions were 4.6 percent lower in 2012 than 2006 - though emissions from air travel had gone up.

The report used Government statistics to review household emissions over the period and said even the smallest shift in spending, such as less on meat or on transport, could have a large effect.

Report author Suzi Kerr said the main drive for the overall decrease in household emissions was people spending less on electricity.

"We think that's a result of improved insulation and efficiency within houses and also because electricity prices went up dramatically during that period."

However, the report found emissions from cars and other vehicles had not improved, while emissions from domestic flights had doubled.

"People are travelling more - more flights, more personal air travel ... not business," said Ms Kerr.

Wellington city councillor Iona Pannett is renovating her home and said she was trying to be environmentally conscious.

"Old houses in New Zealand have a host of problems and remediating them can be quite complex.

"Before we started renovating, we just had insulation in our roof, but we're going to put it under the floor and in some of the walls which is quite expensive."

She did her best to make sure her carbon footprint, and that of her partner and two young children, was as small as possible.

"My partner and I choose not to drive, we don't have a car so we walk and take the bus.

"I've started to talk to my children about why that's important, I don't try and force my views on them but they are growing up in a house where it's normal to compost and turn off the lights and heating."

The report comes as representatives from almost 200 countries converge in Paris for the climate change summit this week.

New Zealand's net emissions rose by 42 percent between 1990 and 2013, and the Government has been criticised for its climate change policy.

It has set a target of a 5 percent reduction from 1990 levels within five years.

Sustainability Council executive director Simon Terry said the research was helpful in letting people know how to reduce emssions.

"Households account for only 20 percent of the country's total emissions, so meeting serious targets will require people to act not just as consumers, but also as citizens who demand the Government deliver serious emission reductions right across the economy."

But every little bit did help, he said, even it was just turning off the heating before bed or taking the bus to work.

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