8 Apr 2021

Covid-19 restrictions cause annual greenhouse gas emissions drop

2:25 pm on 8 April 2021

Greenhouse gas emissions were down 4.8 percent for the year to December, largely due to a fall in transport emissions because of Covid-19.

The pipe of a coal power plant with white smoke as a global warming concept.

Greenhouse gas emissions were down 4.8 percent for the year to December. Photo: 123RF

Transport emissions were up 11 percent in the three months to December compared to the September quarter but remained well down on pre-Covid-19 levels.

For the year ended December 2019 transport emissions were 6037 kilotonnes, compared with the same period to 2020 when they were 3758 kilotonnes - a 38 percent decline.

Total emissions quarter-on-quarter fell in December, after a strong rebound in September.

Stats NZ environmental economic accounts manager Stephen Oakley said this was consistent with the changes in economic activity.

"Emissions were down 1.7 percent in the December 2020 quarter, compared with gross domestic product which was down 1 percent."

"On the whole, transport, postal, and warehousing services emissions were down but domestic aviation and road transport emissions picked up slightly in the second half of the year, as national restrictions eased."

Household emissions were also down on an annual basis due to the large drop during the nationwide lockdown, but on a quarterly basis they rose 5.2 percent compared to September.

"With international borders closed and overseas travel restricted, households' use of road transport picked up at the end of 2020, increasing their emissions."

Manufacturing emissions fell 10 percent for the year largely due to less gas and coal consumption, however over the same period GDP for the sector only fell 3.1 percent.

"We can see manufacturing emissions and GDP growth have been diverging slightly since 2018," Oakley said.

The figures are published with a three to four month lag, while the Greenhouse Gas inventory is published with an 15-16-month lag.

Due to the experimental nature of the data, revisions are expected as Stats NZ refines the methodology and gradually improves the quality of the series. Quarterly emissions estimates are based on information available at the time of compilation.

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