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Transport drives down total greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 - Stats NZ

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New experimental figures show New Zealand’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were down 4.8 percent (3,931 kilotonnes) in the year ended December 2020, largely driven by a fall in transport emissions reflecting the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and society throughout the year, Stats NZ said today.

Despite the strong rebound in emissions in the September 2020 quarter, overall annual emissions fell due to decreases in total emissions in the March, June, and December 2020 quarters.

"The fall in emissions in the December quarter mirrors the fall in economic activity which followed the September rebound," environmental economic accounts manager Stephen Oakley said.

Emissions were down 1.7 percent in the December 2020 quarter, compared with gross domestic product (GDP) which was down 1.0 percent.

This is the second time Stats NZ has produced quarterly estimates of New Zealand’s gross emissions on a System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) basis. The estimates draw heavily on data from the New Zealand’s greenhouse gas inventory, New Zealand’s official source of emissions and removals, reported annually to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). An update to the inventory will be released on 13 April 2021 (for data to 2019) and this will be incorporated into the next quarterly release.

Stats NZ combines the inventory with other data to provide more timely quarterly emissions estimates which can be used to track emissions in relation to economic activity.

In the December 2020 year, only emissions for the transport, postal, and warehousing industry remained well below pre-COVID-19 levels due to the ongoing border closure. Their emissions were down 38 percent (2,279 kilotonnes), while their GDP also dropped by 26 percent.

"On the whole, transport, postal, and warehousing services emissions were down but domestic aviation and road transport emissions picked up slightly in the second half of the year, as national restrictions eased," Mr Oakley said.

Direct emissions from households saw a 5.7 percent (540 kilotonnes) drop over the year ended December 2020. However, after a 23 percent drop in household emissions in the June 2020 quarter (during the national lockdown), emissions increased in both the September and December 2020 quarters. As a result, household emissions reached their highest quarterly level in the December 2020 quarter since the emissions series began in 2014.

"With international borders closed and overseas travel restricted, households’ use of road transport picked up at the end of 2020, increasing their emissions," Mr Oakley said.

Other industries such as manufacturing saw falls in emissions in 2020, despite COVID-19 having less of an impact on the industry.

Manufacturing emissions fell 10 percent (1,164 kilotonnes) in the December 2020 year compared with the December 2019 year, largely driven by decreases in gas and coal consumption, and a decrease in steel production. By comparison, over the same period the manufacturing industry saw only a 3.1 percent drop in its contribution to GDP.

"We can see manufacturing emissions and GDP growth have been diverging slightly since 2018," Mr Oakley said.

Of the seven industries published in this experimental release, services excluding transport, postal, and warehousing; and electricity, gas, water, and waste services were the only industries to see increases in emissions in 2020 compared with 2019, up 11 and 6.0 percent respectively.

"A particularly dry September quarter saw a strong increase in fossil fuel use for electricity generation, bringing up the 2020 total emissions for electricity, gas, water, and waste services," Mr Oakley said.


Stats NZ welcomes feedback on the methodology used to produce these new experimental estimates as it is the intention to develop them into official statistics. If you would like to provide feedback, please complete the feedback form - Greenhouse gas emission (industry and household) quarterly.

Experimental emissions data is also now available in graphical form on the COVID-19 data portal under the ‘Economic’ tab.

About the data

This experimental release on quarterly production-based emissions is done within the SEEA framework to track emissions in relation to economic activity. The SEEA production-based emissions estimates transform the greenhouse gas inventory data to be consistent with economic classifications and concepts by changing the unit of analysis (from a process-based approach, for example, energy and waste, to a standard production-based industrial classification, for example, ANZSIC06) and applying the residency principle. This means deducting emissions from non-residents operating on the domestic territory (for example, international tourists driving vehicles) and adding emissions from residents operating overseas (for example, international aviation or shipping).

The Greenhouse gas inventory is based on the territory principle. It is best suited for understanding New Zealand’s greenhouse gas profile (in both gross and net terms) and identifying the source processes that generate emissions within the territory. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas inventory is the official source of New Zealand’s emissions and removals data and is reported annually to the UNFCCC. It is also the basis on which progress towards targets is determined.

The latest annual benchmarks used in the December 2020 quarter estimates are from the December 2018 year.

Greenhouse gas emissions (industry and household): September 2020 quarter - methodology and results has more information on the sources and methods used to produce these statistics.

Due to the experimental nature of the data, revisions are expected as Stats NZ refines the methodology and gradually improves the quality of the series. Quarterly emissions estimates are based on information available at the time of compilation. Revisions to the time series will also result from the incorporation of updated annual benchmarks and quarterly indicators.

See previous greenhouse gas emissions releases:

Greenhouse gas emissions (industry and household): September 2020 quarter

Greenhouse gas emissions (industry and household): Year ended 2018

Greenhouse gas emissions (consumption-based): Year ended 2017

Greenhouse gas emissions by region (industry and household): Year ended 2018

Visit our website to read this news story and experimental estimates update:

Transport drives down total greenhouse gas emissions in 2020

Greenhouse gas emissions (industry and household): December 2020 quarter

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