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Two key factors lower NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions

Otautahi – Seasonally adjusted greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from industries and households fell by 11 percent in the September 2021 quarter, following a 4.7 percent increase in the June 2021 quarter, Stats NZ says.

The September 2021 quarter fall in gross emissions was largely due to a reduction in coal use for electricity generation. Covid alert level restrictions and nationwide/regional lockdowns also contributed to the drop in emissions this quarter.

Emissions decreased across all industry groupings in the September 2021 quarter, as COVID-19 restrictions took hold in the second half of the quarter.

Leading indicators of emissions reductions that are permanent might include:

  • Reduction in distance travelled in high emission vehicles
  • Reduction in installed coal burning capacity in energy and industry
  • Reduction in fossil gas burning capacity in energy, industry and households
  • Change in land use from high emitting activities (sheep, beef, dairy) to low emitting (horticulture) or CO2 sequestering activities (regenerating native forests, increased ha forestry)
  • Reduction in imports of liquid fossil fuels and palm kernal expeller (PKE) which are permanent
  • Reduction in synthetic fertiliser applied in NZ which are permanent

The largest industry contributors to this decrease were electricity, gas, water, and waste services, down 33 percent (969 kilotonnes); manufacturing, down 10 percent (273 kilotonnes); and transport, postal, and warehousing, down 17 percent (156 kilotonnes).

After reaching a quarterly timeseries high in June 2021, the electricity, gas, water, and waste services industry decreased emissions by 33 percent. This is mainly due to a switch from coal use to hydro generation.

In the September 2021 quarter, 84 percent of our electricity was generated from renewable sources compared with 75 percent in the previous quarter, according to MBIE.

Manufacturing and transport, postal, and warehousing industries also saw large emissions decreases of 10 and 17 percent respectively, due to continuing covid restrictions resulting in lower economic activity.

In the year ended September 2021, total emissions (industry and household) decreased 0.4 percent (346 kilotonnes) to reach a total of 81,137 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. During the September 2021 year, the June 2021 quarter saw the largest increase in emissions, up 4.7 percent (965 kilotonnes), and the September 2021 quarter saw the largest decrease in emissions, down 11 percent (2,405 kilotonnes).

Total household emissions decreased by 12 percent (297 kilotonnes) in the September 2021 quarter, mostly due to a decrease in household transport emissions, down 13 percent (300 kilotonnes).

Household heating/cooling, a component of total household emissions, was the only category to show an increase this quarter, up 1.5 percent (three kilotonnes, seasonally adjusted). The decrease in household transport and increase in household heating/cooling reflects more home-based activity due to covid lockdowns and restrictions.

In the year ended September 2021, total household emissions rose 8.9 percent, driven by higher-than-normal transport emissions in the December 2020 quarter.

Since the beginning of the covid pandemic in New Zealand, the economy has faced significant upheaval. This has flowed through to greenhouse gas emissions.

In the year ended September 2021, New Zealand’s industries and households emitted 81,137 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases (actual series), down 4.4 percent when compared with the pre-COVID-19 September 2019 year value of 84,840 kilotonnes.