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The major focus on climate change in Environment Aotearoa 2019, a stocktake on New Zealand's environment released today, is a welcome change.
The report describes an environment that faces serious pressures, including species at risk of extinction, polluted rivers and streams, the loss of productive land as cities expand, and climate change.
Climate - Change - Report - Reports
On climate change, the report is more detailed and hard-hitting than past reports have been.
New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions are high internationally. In 2015, New Zealanders produced 17.5 tonnes of greenhouse gases (measured as carbon dioxide equivalent) per person, 33% higher than the average of 13.2 tonnes from industrialised countries.
Figures - Emissions - % - % - Levels
In the latest figures from 2017, gross emissions rose 2.2% from 2016 and remain 23% above 1990 levels. The immediate causes are clearly stated: high emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture and sharply rising emissions of carbon dioxide from transport.
The report is silent on the root causes of rising emissions, including ineffective government action and community attitudes that rank climate change as a relatively low priority. Instead it states:
Emissions - Policies - Technologies - Means - Production
Our high per-person emissions are reversible if we adopt policies, technologies, or other means that reduce our production of greenhouse gases.
But this obscures the story of 30 years of policy work on climate change and 11 years trying to make New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme work.
Report - Change - Flood - Vehicles - Country
An earlier report on climate change did not foresee the flood of vehicles entering the country. This has now given New Zealand the highest 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. With a flood of cheap, high-emission used imports, it is no surprise that New Zealand's transport emissions continue to rise.
A key function of this latest...
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