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Imports account for half of New Zealand's carbon footprint - Stats NZ

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

In the year ended December 2019, greenhouse gas emissions embodied in our imported goods and services increased 3.2 percent from the previous year, to 30,728 kilotonnes and accounted for 51 percent of our carbon footprint, Stats NZ said today.

This rise was largely driven by the increasing emissions embodied in imported manufactured goods, which were up 5.6 percent from 2018.

"Consumption-based emission statistics present a broader picture of how international trade, producers, and consumers influence our carbon footprint. They illustrate how a nation’s consumption and lifestyle choices impact on emissions," environmental-economic accounts manager Stephen Oakley said.

The consumption-based approach, which accounts for the emissions embodied in trade, allocates all emissions associated with the production and distribution of a good or service to the final consumer.

In 2019, New Zealand’s consumption-based emissions (carbon footprint) increased by 1.8 percent from the previous year, to 60,527 kilotonnes.

Emissions embodied in household consumption, which includes a large proportion of emissions embodied in imports, accounted for 71 percent of New Zealand’s carbon footprint. Gross capital formation (capital investment and inventories) accounted for 20 percent, government (both central and local) consumption accounted for 8.0 percent, and consumption by non-profit institutions serving households, 0.8 percent.

The carbon footprint of New Zealand households was 42,888 kilotonnes, up 1.6 percent from the previous year. Household use of transport accounted for 37 percent of the carbon footprint of households, followed by food and non-alcoholic beverages contributing 24 percent, and housing and household utilities (including the use of electricity) contributing 13 percent.

"Over the last five years household consumption-based emissions have hovered around 42,000 to 43,000 kilotonnes. Increases in population and expenditure per capita have offset decreases in the emissions intensity of household consumption," Mr Oakley said.

In 2019, greenhouse gas emissions embodied in our exports increased 3.1 percent to reach a total of 55,099 kilotonnes. Nearly two-thirds of New Zealand’s production-based emissions were embodied in our exports - destined to be consumed in other countries.

Emissions embodied in exports were mainly from agricultural products, which have a high proportion of embodied methane and nitrous oxide. In 2019, we exported 80 percent of the methane produced in New Zealand.

"New Zealand is a net exporter of embodied emissions as its consumption-based emissions are significantly less than its production-based emissions. This means that as a nation we export more emissions than we import," Mr Oakley said.

About the data

Estimates of New Zealand’s carbon footprint are released in Greenhouse gas emissions (consumption-based): Year ended 2019 (provisional), which presents data on New Zealand’s carbon footprint and emissions associated with trade, based on principles and concepts that are consistent with production-based emissions.

Emissions are expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents, which are the emissions of greenhouse gases weighted by their 100-year global warming potential (GWP). The GWPs are based on those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report, 2007.

The consumption-based emissions estimates are provisional. Revisions to the time series are expected as the methodologies are improved over time.

While some countries produce consumption-based emissions estimates there are no internationally agreed methodological standards. Therefore, caution is advised when comparing across countries given differences in either scope or methodology.

This release is the third in Stats NZ’s suite of annual GHG emissions reports, following July’s release of Greenhouse gas emissions (industry and household): Year ended 2019 and September’s release of Greenhouse gas emissions by region (industry and household): Year ended 2019.

For more information see About consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions statistics and Approaches to measuring New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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