Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

New Zealand's greenhouse gas shame

Emissions from agriculture increased 0.8 per cent in 2014 and now represent 49 per cent of the country's total emissions. Photo / File
Emissions from agriculture increased 0.8 per cent in 2014 and now represent 49 per cent of the country's total emissions. Photo / File

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says she will set up a high-level taskforce to drive down New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions after the latest annual report revealed another 1 per cent increase in 2014.

The annual Environment Ministry report says gross emissions rose 1 per cent by the equivalent of 0.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, and gas removed through forestry dropped 2.5 per cent by 0.6 million tonnes, producing a total increase in net emissions of 1.4 million tonnes.

Gross emissions have now risen by 23 per cent, and net emissions by 54 per cent, since 1990.

New Zealand's gross emissions per person are now fifth highest out of the 41 countries which set reduction targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and our net emissions are 14th highest.

Australia tops both lists with the highest emissions per person in both gross and net terms.

The United States, Canada and Luxembourg also have higher gross emissions than New Zealand.

Mrs Bennett said she planned to appoint "a high-level taskforce to provide advice and ways in which we can drive down our emissions".

She has said previously that the taskforce would include business, farming and environmental groups, and that she was also open to a cross-party discussion about what the next steps should be.

Transport emissions rose by a below-average 0.3 per cent despite increasing vehicle numbers. Photo / File
Transport emissions rose by a below-average 0.3 per cent despite increasing vehicle numbers. Photo / File

"It is clear our Earth cannot sustain any more greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

"That is why New Zealand signed up to the Paris Agreement on climate change and why our Government is committed to reducing emissions."

She said the Government was spending $400 million a year on research to help the farming sector become more efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and $1.2 billion over three years on public transport and encouraging the use of electric vehicles.

It was also reviewing the emissions trading scheme and planned to scrap the current "one for two" carbon unit subsidy.

But Greenpeace director and former Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said it was already clear that the way to reduce emissions was to stop "subsidising" them through building motorways which increased transport emissions, subsidising irrigation schemes which increased intensive dairying, and leaving agriculture out of the emissions trading scheme.

"Labour, National and the Greens all have policies not to bring in agriculture. The Greens put a five-year moratorium in place," he said.

Greenpeace director Russel Norman says the way to reduce emissions is to stop "subsidising" them. Photo / File
Greenpeace director Russel Norman says the way to reduce emissions is to stop "subsidising" them. Photo / File

"If you want to reduce emissions, then why are half of our emissions yet to face a price? Instead we are subsidising it."

The Environment Ministry report says emissions from agriculture increased 0.8 per cent in 2014 and now represent 49 per cent of the country's total emissions. The increase was mainly due to a 3.3 per cent increase in the dairy herd - an increase which has since been reversed due to lower dairy prices, which should reduce agricultural emissions in the next report.

Emissions from energy rose 1.2 per cent to make up 40 per cent of total emissions, mainly due to economic growth in chemicals, food processing and oil and natural gas production.

Transport emissions, which are included in the energy category, rose by a below-average 0.3 per cent despite increasing vehicle numbers.

Emissions from industrial processes and products increased by 2.8 per cent due to growth in the mineral, chemical and metal industries, but made up only 6 per cent of total emissions.

Emissions from waste disposal declined by 0.7 per cent, reflecting continued improvements in landfill management, and made up only 5 per cent of the total.

Offsetting carbon "sinks" mainly in forestry have been shrinking for the past six years because of increased forest harvesting and conversions to farming during the years of high dairy prices, and shrank by a further 2.5 per cent in 2014.

- NZ Herald

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