New Zealand can and must do more to fight climate change on the home front, say authors of a high-level report out today.
In the second of two major papers published by the Royal Society of New Zealand, researchers have laid out a range of actions they say the country could start taking now.
An initial report, issued last week, warned several degrees of temperature increase by the end of century would put the country further at risk of flooding, drought, storm surge and put even greater pressure on waterways and ecosystems.
A follow-up being launched in Wellington today provides a blueprint for shifting to a low-carbon economy through improvements in energy, transport, building, agriculture, industry and land use.
Massey University sustainable energy expert Professor Ralph Sims, who led the panel of authors, said there were already many options that were well understood, achievable and likely to have flow-on benefits.
"Business-as-usual approaches will not get us where we need to be; ambitious action is needed now by all New Zealanders."
The report noted how the impact of New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme - used to meet our emissions target through buying carbon credits from a range of overseas sources - had been limited in reducing actual domestic emissions.
Around half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions stem from burning coal, oil and gas for electricity, transport, industry heat processes and other everyday uses, with the rest coming from agriculture through emissions of nitrous oxide from animal waste and methane, mainly belched from ruminant cattle.
Ways to improve transport, still 99 per cent dependent on fossil fuels, included setting vehicle fuel efficiency standards, encouraging the use of low or zero-emissions vehicles and prioritising walking, cycling and public transport in urban design.
Considerable emissions savings could be made by moving road freight to shipping or rail, Professor Sims said. "As an example, the transport of one tonne of freight by diesel-powered rail produces less than a third of the emissions than transport over the same journey by road."