19 Oct 2017

Revealed: NZ's emissions fifth highest in OECD

8:02 pm on 19 October 2017

New Zealand has the fifth-highest-level of emissions per person in the OECD, a new government report has revealed.

Cattle on a hill, Hawke's Bay.

Cattle on a hill, Hawke's Bay. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions have risen by almost a quarter in the last 25 years, a report from the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ says.

While agriculture has contributed nearly half of those emissions, emissions from road transport had increased by 78 percent since 1990.

Last year the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere reached the highest level in 800,000 years. And 2016 was the warmest year since 1909; the five warmest years on record have been in the last 20 years.

That warming had led to dryer soils in a fifth of sites tested throughout New Zealand, the report said. It also said the frequency and intensity of drought in drought-prone regions was expected to worsen.

"The number of frost days (below 0 degrees Celsius) decreased and the number of warm days (over 25 degrees Celsius) increased at around one‐third of measured sites over the period 1972-2016," the report said.

Sea temperatures have increased 0.7 percent in the last century and coastal sea levels had increased 22 cms in places.

"Climate related changes to our oceans will continue for centuries and are threats to marine life, commercial and recreational fishing, Māori customary practices, and other cultural and recreational practices. Rising sea levels are threatening public and private coastal communities, infrastructure, cultural sites, and marine habitats," the report said.

Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson said while New Zealand isn't a large contributor of emissions globally (making up just 0.17 of global emission) it is certainly affected locally so needs to act.

"The future impacts of climate change on our lives all depend on how fast global emissions are reduced and the extent to which our communities can adapt to change.

Gary Taylor from the Environmental Defence Society said the report proves more needed to be done to control green house gas emissions.

"We're tracking in the wrong direction at the moment, emissions are continuing to climb and if we're going to meet our Paris target by 2030 we're going to have to do a lot more than we're doing now."

Mr Taylor is calling for an independent climate commission.

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