New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions have shot up by more than a quarter in the past three decades – and the latest annual stocktake shows they're still not coming down.
In response to the Ministry for the Environment's just-released inventory, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said every part of Government would need to take "urgent action" to turn the picture around.
The report, covering all human-generated emissions between 1990 and 2019, showed gross emissions leapt by 26 per cent – or some 17.2 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (Mt CO2-e) - over that period.
Most of that increase came from methane belched by dairy cattle and CO2 from road transport.
But the inventory also showed that, despite increased efforts to decarbonise, both gross and net emissions rose by around 2 per cent in 2019.
In that case, the bump was mainly down to emissions rises in manufacturing industries and construction, along with public electricity and heat production.
Overall, New Zealand's emissions in 2019 amounted to 82.3 Mt CO2-e, of which about 46 per cent came from CO2, 42 per cent from methane, and 10 per cent from nitrous oxide.
About 33 per cent of that was offset by land use and forestry - a sector whose net CO2 removals had climbed by about 14 per cent since 1990.
Because of the delay in producing the inventory, which took about 15 months to prepare, it didn't capture the impact of some of the Government's more recently introduced measures.
That included capping the Emissions Trading Scheme, introducing a "clean car standard", replacing coal-fired boilers in schools and investing more in public transport and cycleways.
Still, the Climate Change Commission's recent draft report showed New Zealand wasn't on track to miss its locked-in commitments by millions of tonnes of CO2-e.
Under policies in place when the report was prepared, the country would fall short of its 2050 target of net-zero long-lived gases by 6.3Mt of CO2-e.
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Biogenic methane - largely stemming from livestock and responsible for a third of our greenhouse gas emissions - would also come down only 12 per cent below 2017 levels.
That was well beneath the Zero Carbon Act's targeted reduction range of 24 to 47 per cent.
The commission recommended an aggressive but achievable plan of action, that included slashing livestock numbers, winding down petrol car imports and planting more forestry - and amounted to cutting all emissions by a third within the next 16 years.
Shaw said that, while the bump over 2018-19 had taken New Zealand further away from hitting its targets, the country's emissions had generally remained flat for the past 15 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," he said.
"If we can do that, then we can reverse the current trend and finally bring emissions down in line with what the science requires."
Shaw said the plan would need to cover every part of the economy – including finance, energy, transport and agriculture.
"When the Climate Change Commission released its draft advice in January I said that, because of the legislative and institutional framework we have put in place and the roadmap the Commission had provided, I had never felt more confident that a climate-friendly, prosperous future for New Zealand was within reach," he said.
Whether or not we get there is going to depend on the decisions that we make over the next few years.
"Our best chance to take the actions that will bring emissions down is now; and we clearly have a lot to do."
He added that the recent rise showed the Government was "right" to ban new coal-fired boilers – although commentators have noted that large existing boilers wouldn't need to go until 2037.
The new data comes after StatsNZ last week reported New Zealand's Covid-19 measures had put a slight dent in emissions over 2020 - although this was separate to the formally reported national inventory.
It was also published as the Government prepares to introduce a law that requires the financial sector to disclose their climate impacts, and explain how they will manage related risks and opportunities.
The Financial Sector (Climate-related Disclosure and Other Matters) Amendment Bill has been introduced to Parliament and will receive its first reading this week.
"It is important that every part of New Zealand's economy is helping us cut emissions and transition to a low-carbon future," Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark said.
"This legislation ensures that financial organisations disclose and ultimately take action against climate-related risks and opportunities."
The bill will make climate-related disclosures mandatory for around 200 organisations, including most listed issuers, large registered banks, licensed insurers and managers of investment schemes.
Once passed, disclosures will be required for financial years commencing in 2022, meaning that the first disclosures will be made in 2023.