13 Apr 2021

NZ greenhouse gas emissions: Agriculture, energy sectors biggest contributors in 2019

12:33 pm on 13 April 2021

The agriculture and energy sectors were the largest contributors to New Zealand's gross greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, the latest figures show.

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

Data on New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 has just been released (file image). Photo: 123RF

The Ministry for the Environment has just released its New Zealand Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2019 - the official annual estimate of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions and removals in Aotearoa.

It focuses on carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. The inventory takes time to calculate, which is why figures for 2019 emissions are only being released today.

Gross emissions for 2019 were 82.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e).

Greenhouse gas snapshot 2019

Photo: Supplied / Ministry for the Environment

Of that, agriculture made up 48 percent (39.6Mt CO2-e) and energy (including transport) 42 percent (34.3 Mt CO2-e).

Of the total emissions, 46 percent was carbon dioxide, mainly from the energy sector, 42 percent was methane, mainly from agriculture and waste (4 percent of gross emissions) and nitrous oxide mainly from agriculture made up 10 percent.

Greenhouse gas emissions 2019 doughnut graph.

Photo: Supplied / Ministry for the Environment

Gross emissions were up on 2018 by 2 percent mainly due to to emission increases in manufacturing industries and construction, and public electricity and heat production.

Over the 1990-2019 period gross emissions increased by 26 percent, mainly due to methane from dairy cattle digestive systems and carbon dioxide from road transport.

Gross emissions were up on 2018 by 2 percent, while over the 1900-2019 period emissions increased by 26 percent.

Gross emissions refers to total emissions. Net emissions are gross emissions minus emission removals from land use, land use change, and forestry. Our net emissions in 2019 were 54.9 Mt CO2-e.

'Further away from meeting targets'

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw's response to the inventory was that "every part of government will need to take urgent action to bring down emissions".

No caption

James Shaw Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"The period from 2018 to 2019 has taken us further away from meeting the targets we committed to in law, on average New Zealand's emissions have remained flat for the last fifteen years.

"What this makes absolutely clear is that every part of Government must now come together and help to deliver an Emissions Reduction Plan in line with what the Climate Change Commission recommends.

"If we can do that, then we can reverse the current trend and finally bring emissions down in line with what the science requires. That plan will need to cover every part of the economy - including, but not limited to, finance, energy, transport, and agriculture."

Previous inventory

The inventory published last year showed that in 2018, New Zealand's gross emissions were 1 percent lower than 2017.

That year, gross emissions were 78.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, and comprised of 44 percent carbon dioxide, 43 percent methane, 10 percent nitrous oxide and 2 percent fluorinated gases.

You can also see the emissions in MFE's interactive tracker.

What happened in 2020?

The effects of Covid-19 on emissions won't be fully known until the next Greenhouse Gas Inventory is published in 2022.

However, figures for most of 2020 are available from Statistics New Zealand.

They showed that 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.

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.

What's the inventory for?

The inventory's one of the country's mandatory reporting obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

It also helps the MFE with policy recommendations on climate change.

MFE says the inventory "follows a process of continuous improvement", under which the whole inventory from from 1990 is recalculated when methodology or underlying data changes.

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