New Zealand emissions are falling

After peaking in 2006, net emissions of greenhouse gases from this country have fallen materially.

Since 2006:

  • Net emissions including agriculture are down 6.7%.
  • Net emissions including agriculture per capita are down 22.1%.

The gap between these two figures is population growth. Between 2006 and 2019, the population increased 20% from 4.2 million to 5.0 million. Total emissions is probably the relevant value for Paris 2030 but per capita is the more relevant value to the 2050 target of net zero emissions.

Gross emissions are responsible for 106% of the change in net emissions since 2006. Agriculture emissions peaked in 2014 and have fallen 1% since then.

Source: Greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2019, Ministry for the Environment

I suppose you think it is just a coincidence that New Zealand’s emissions began falling almost exactly when the Emissions Trading Scheme was launched?

Yes, it probably is a coincidence. The GFC landed in 2008 and after an early price spike the ETS did not deliver a carbon price in double figures until 2016. It is possible the fact there was an emissions price and the promise of higher future prices made a difference. But who knows?

The fall in net emissions after 2013, during a period of economic growth, is the more promising part of the trend line.

So there has been impressive progress on emissions.

There the good news ends. To reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 will require per capita emissions to fall at a higher rate, 48% faster than between 2006-2019. That is a big number, made bigger by the fact that the 22% reduction since 2006 was the low-hanging fruit.

It only gets more difficult from here.

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