Traffic jam Aukland

New Zealand’s carbon emissions are continuing to rise according to the new Environment Aotearoa 2019 report released this month.

One of the major culprits is transport, specifically a plethora of newly purchased cars with high emissions hitting the roads, according to an article in The Conversation by Massey University professor, Robert McLachlan.

He cites a section of the report that notes NZ has had a “flood of vehicles” entering the country, and now has the highest per capita rate of vehicle ownership in the OECD.

“New Zealand has 4.36 million vehicles, up half a million since 2015, but lacks the regulations found in many other countries, such as CO2-linked registration fees and fuel efficiency standards,” the report says.

“With a flood of cheap, high-emission used imports, it is no surprise that New Zealand’s transport emissions continue to rise.”

It’s worth noting that Australia’s transport sector emissions are also woefully high, and there are also no mandatory CO2 emissions standards, mandatory fuel efficiency standards or emissions-linked incentives related to vehicle registration for consumers to swap to lower-emissions vehicles, including hybrids and EVs.

How high are NZ’s emissions and what are the big emmissions?

McLachlan observes that overall, NZ’s emissions are 33 per cent higher than the average per capita emissions of industrialised nations. The latest figures from 2017 show emissions rose 2.2 per cent from 2016 levels and are 23 per cent above 1990 levels.

Along with transport, the report states the other driver of rising emissions are high emissions levels of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture.

In other words, the nation’s belching bovines and the emissions associated with other activities such as fertiliser use are still a big problem.

Other major environmental issues identified in the report include loss of native vegetation; urban development pressures impacting soil, water and biodiversity; water pollution; soil degradation; urban pollution; and the impact of fishing practices on the marine environment.

“This report provides a health check on our environment and shows it’s under pressure in many places – in our towns and cities, rivers and oceans,” NZ Government secretary for the environment Vicky Robertson says.

“If we want to protect the things we value, now and for future generations, we need to focus our attention on the choices we can make from here.”

  • Read the full report and supporting material here

How the government is responding

Along with the data showing why NZ emissions are rising, the report states that climate change is already having an impact on the country.

(And about now is when we get jealous NZ has a government that not only accepts climate change, and accepts it is having an impact, it appears to have a willingness to do something beyond making motherhood statements around “climate variability”.)

Earlier this month, the Ministry for the Environment appointed an expert panel to create the framework for the nation’s first National Climate Change Risk Assessment.

Minister for climate change, James Shaw, says the NCCRA will provide an overview of what the likely impacts will be, and where the knowledge gaps are. Its work will also help the government priorities adaptation actions.

The panel comprises experts from across environmental science, engineering, research, the public sector and climatology.

“Without a national-level risk assessment system we’ll continue to be unprepared for climate change,” James Shaw says.

“New Zealand faces a broad range of climate-related impacts. We’re already starting to see some now.

Local Government NZ estimates $2.7 billion of council road, water, and building infrastructure are at risk from 0.5 metres of sea level rise, and that increases to $14.1 billion with three metres of sea level rise, and LGNZ says those are probably conservative estimates.”

Shaw says Auckland Council’s own risk assessment predicts that one quarter of the region’s buildings are exposed to flood hazard.

There must be a sense of urgency in the corridors of the Beehive, as the timelines for delivering useful information are short.

The panel is expected to produce a National Climate Change Risk Assessment framework by the end of June this year, and the first risk assessment will be completed by the middle of next year.

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  1. Maybe remove the mandatory helmet law in NZ and Australia, thus joining the rest of the inteligent world who don’t criminally penalise citizens – for not wearing a foam hat and choosing sustainable and active transport options – and see utilitarian cycling rates increase and driving addiction decrease… hmm?