Lake Wakatipu, Otago, New Zealand - Photo credit, Barni1 & Free Images - Pixabay
Welcome to the thirty-third edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
Having examined how CO2 emissions can be converted into polymers last week, I’m returning to my country-by-country analysis and this week is the turn of New Zealand.
New Zealand ranks 11th highest under Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and has consistently being a top 20 ranking country in this biennial index since its inception in January 2006.
Paris Agreement Targets
New Zealand’s Paris Agreement target is to reduce greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions by 11% of 1990 levels by 2030. In 2015, GhG emissions were over 24% higher compared with 1990 levels. New Zealand has longer-term aspirations to be a ‘zero-carbon nation’ by 2050.
However, the climate action tracker is less optimistic about New Zealand reaching its 2020 targets and rates their goal of reducing GhG by 11% of 1990 levels by 2030 as insufficient. It cited among other things the target itself not doing enough to help contribute to the Paris Agreement’s overall objective of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. It highlighted a reliance on the purchase of carbon credits, and that emissions from transport and agriculture are expected to rise. It also pointed to the inclusion of forestry sector data if allowed as a way to artificially reduce the overall emissions figures.
GhG Emissions by Sector
According to environmental statistics published by the New Zealand government, gross GhG emissions increased by 24% between 1990 – 2015. New Zealand emitted 80 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2015, the highest emitting sectors were agriculture and transport with 48% and 41% of the total amount.
New Zealand is one the largest milk producing countries in the world and is home to Fonterra a global dairy company with NZ$19.2 Billion in turnover in 2017. Between 1990 and 2015, New Zealand’s national dairy herd (methane emissions) increased by almost 90% and grass fertilising increased five-fold (nitrogen emissions).
2015 Road vehicle emissions were 80% higher compared with 1990 levels and accounted for 37% of CO2 emissions from the energy sector. The use of fossil fuels in the manufacturing and construction industry represented a further 19% of energy sector emissions in 2015 with 11% of emissions coming from the generation of electricity. Over 85% of electricity generated in 2016 was sourced from renewable energy such as hydro.
In 2013, the University of Waikato published a research report entitled “Carbon Capture and Storage: Designing the Legal and Regulatory Framework for New Zealand”. The focus of the report was primarily on the injection phase of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the adequacy of existing laws. The report found that the existing laws did not sufficiently deal with long-term events, post-closure of CCS sites. The new act that the report proposed addressed the failings in existing legislation and recommended the provision of permits for CCS activities offshore and onshore. The permits would be both site-specific and performance-based.
New Zealand’s rapid growth in dairy production and transport vehicle use over the past 25 years has led to a 24% rise in gross GhG emissions. A briefing document to the incoming Energy Minister in 2016 estimated hat meeting Paris Agreement targets could cost the economy NZ$14.2b over ten years, or NZ$1.4b per annum if domestic emissions are not addressed. One way of dealing with this is the adoption of a smart farming initiative similar to Ireland where a 10% reduction in CO2 emissions has been realised. However, as part of the new coalition government’s negotiations, the New Zealand First party has secured that 95% subsidies for the agriculture sector in the emissions charges. This will be a popular move among the farming community who vehemently opposed a ‘fart tax’ in 2003.
Another solution to the problem is increasing the proportion of electric vehicles on New Zealand roads as 85% of electricity generated in 2016 was from renewable sources. The New Zealand rail infrastructure is also inefficient due to the long and narrow shape of the North and South Islands. A recent South Island earthquake damaged 150km of railway line leaving behind the ‘biggest South Island railway project in generations’.
Next week’s blog will profile Singapore and their efforts to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets.
If you liked this article you might enjoy reading some recent articles in the series:
Week 32 Polymers: creating plastic out of thin air
Week 31 France: The electricity generation dilemma, retrofits and politics
Week 30 Malta: The Italian Interconnector job