NZ leads in emissions rise

00:21, Aug 07 2009

New Zealand's fossil-fuel emissions have soared by 72 per cent since 1990, the biggest jump in the developed world.

Environmentalists fear the massive rise will threaten the country's "clean, green" image.

Figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) show global carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion grew 33 per cent between 1990 and 2006.

Over the same period, Australia's emissions grew 52 per cent and the United States' rose 17 per cent, while Britain's dropped by 3 per cent. However, the Ministry of Economic Development, which provided data to the IEA, said New Zealand's figure was smaller.

IEA figures state New Zealand's 37 tonnes of carbon-equivalent emissions in 2006, up from 21 tonnes in 1990, was 0.17 per cent of the world's total, compared with energy powerhouses the US (5697 tonnes) and China (5649 tonnes).

However, environmentalists said the report could harm the country's reputation.

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"International reports on energy policy showing we're laggards at home impact on our reputation abroad, in a broad sense, with New Zealand's clean, green brand and also with respect to our position at Copenhagen (climate change talks this year)," Environmental Defence Society chairman Gary Taylor said.

He called on the Government to urgently decommission the coal-powered section of the Huntly power station.

It should also "aggressively incentivise" fuel-efficient and electric cars.

Almost half of New Zealand's fuel combustion emissions come from transport, while a quarter are via electricity generation.

New Zealand does not have vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. It has the third-highest per capita ownership of light vehicles, behind the US and Liechtenstein.

The Motor Trade Association says almost one million more cars and trucks are on the country's roads compared with 1990.

Oxfam New Zealand executive director Barry Coates said the report came 17 years after the country signed the initial climate convention at the Rio Earth Summit.

"It shows New Zealand has been slow to take on the challenge of climate change."

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the best option to make change was an emissions trading scheme to "give a price signal for carbon" something the Government was doing.

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report in 2007 warned New Zealand was not doing enough to cut emissions.

The Government has yet to announce its 2020 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

New Zealand's coal emissions have almost doubled since 1990, mainly because of the increased use of coal at the Huntly power station.

Mark Walkington, a senior analyst with the Ministry of Economic Development, said the ministry provided data to the IEA and the publication was used to gain an international comparison.

However, the IEA used the figures differently, he said.

The official Government figure is 43 per cent, which would rank New Zealand fifth-highest in the IEA report.

New Zealand's population growth was about 20 per cent over the same period.

Fuel combustion includes all carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of coal, oil, gas and other fossil fuel used for stationary energy, electricity production and transport.

The Press