Meeting New Zealand’s emission reduction targets

The New Zealand government has agreed to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets of 5% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 11.2% below 1990 levels by 2030 - but is yet to develop a comprehensive policy package that will effectively meet these targets.

A recent webinar run by the Bioenergy Association looked at ways the emission reduction target can be met. Based on our 2013 emissions, and some assumptions about forestry carbon sinks, this requires an annual emission reduction of 19 Mt CO2e compared to business as usual.

The main contributors to New Zealand’s GHG emissions are agriculture (49%) and energy (transport, process heat and electricity, 39%).

  • Agriculture emissions are mostly due to enteric methane and agricultural soils.
  • Transport emissions are due to the use of fossil fuels largely used in personal cars and air transport. These being the most inefficient modes of transport.
  • Process heat emissions are largely due to the manufacture of dairy products, cement, methanol petrochemicals and other manufacturing.
  • Electricity emissions are due to the use of coal and natural gas to generate electricity. Geothermal also emits GHGs, but at much lower rates. New Zealand currently has a very high renewable energy mix in our electricity generation (80 % in 2014).

How to reduce our emissions?

Options for reducing GHG emissions have been identified for each sector including low methane and nitrogen animal feeds, low GHG emitting animals, animal methane inhibitors, anti-methane vaccines, fuel switching from fossil fuel to renewables, increasing use of public transport, increasing engine efficiency, energy conservation and efficiency and replacing coal and natural gas electricity generation with renewables.

There is no silver bullet. To enable New Zealand to meet its GHG emission reduction target, we need to make significant progress on all the identified options. Based on IPCC information, global emissions would need to start falling at 5.5% per year from tomorrow, in order to stay within a two degrees budget.

New Zealand’s targets are woefully inadequate to contribute our fair share of emission reductions. A transition to a low carbon economy will require effective government policy and behaviour change at all levels, individual, business, city and regional.

So how can you reduce your GHG emissions and encourage the places you work, live and play in to do the same? For more detailed information on the emission reduction options visit this link.

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