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New Zealand Aims to be World’s First Carbon Neutral Nation
Josephine Howitt, 22 Oct 07
Article Photo

New Zealand has declared its aim to be carbon neutral in electrical energy by 2025, in stationary manufacturing energy in 2030 and in transport energy by 2040.

The New Zealand government has a history of leadership in sustainable energy planning already signaled its intention to be a leader in carbon neutrality when it announced its Emissions Trading Scheme in September. The October launch of the New Zealand Energy Strategy to 2050, titled Powering our Future: Towards a sustainable low emissions energy system, has provided further detail of the steps.

The strategy includes plans for substantial reductions in emissions, along with carbon offsetting projects such as increasing national forest area by 250,000 hectares by 2020. By 2025, the goal is to obtain 90 percent of all electricity from renewable sources. Is this achievable? We think so: Provision of renewable electricity is cheaper in New Zealand compared to other countries due to abundant renewable energy resources. Around 70 percent of New Zealand energy production is already from renewable sources, and a number of large scale wind farm proposals have recently been approved.

To be carbon neutral in stationary energy, industry is required to improve energy efficiency and switch to less emission-intensive fuel use. Low-carbon scenarios show large reductions in emissions are possible through carbon capture and storage. [Although some feel the impact of carbon capture and storage is unlikely to be sizable for quite a while. -- Ed.]

Increased provision of public transport, setting fuel economy standards for vehicles and using coastal shipping for freight are keystones in the mission to halve 2007 per capita transport emission weights by 2040. There will be a minimum bio-fuels sales obligation of 3.4 percent in all petrol and diesel fuels by 2012, with increases thereafter expected as second generation bio-fuel conversion technologies improve. The Ministry of Transport is considering the impacts of urban design and planning in reducing the need for transport.

The New Zealand government is also increasing funding for research in the development of more sustainable, low-emission technologies. If Sweden’s flourishing ‘green’ industries are anything to go by, the New Zealand economy may well benefit from the added incentives for green innovation. Sweden’s goal to be oil free by 2020 (PDF link) has led to the formulation of similar low-emission scenarios to New Zealand’s, showing that having a clear target gives direction to policy-making.

The government has deployed a set of on-line tools with tips to help citizens make informed decisions to reduce fuel use and energy use. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority gives information about subsidies and offers guidance to businesses.

Further financial impetus to reduce emissions will come from the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, which aims to cover emissions from all sectors and all greenhouse gases by 2013. While initially New Zealand units will be traded domestically, Prime Minister Helen Clark has already been asked by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to be part of an international trading scheme.

New Zealand’s long-awaited national energy strategy and its complimentary emissions trading scheme are welcome additions to national policy. May the pair encourage other countries to develop sustainable energy policies.

Image: "Pylons stretching away to the distance from the Waitaki hydro power scheme." Credit: flickr/wasabicube

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Comments

This article is basically a piece of propaganda. Last time I looked the agricultural sector accounted for 49% of NZ's GHG emissions but it does not get a mention here. NZ is also busy exporting coal to other countries. How can you be carbon neutral when a state owned enterprise exports the stuff? It's a shame if the editors of World Changing are going to allow their excellent blog to disseminate viral political spin.


Posted by: Kublai Kahn on 22 Oct 07

The article also fails to mention that the NZ Government has doubled its spending on roads to $1.7b in 2007-08 and that in February 2007, Michael Cullen, the Finance Minister, boasted that "we have started the largest road building programme this country has ever seen, at least since the nineteenth century". How exactly does this help NZ to reduce its carbon emissions from transport?


Posted by: Kublai Kahn on 22 Oct 07

Thank you for your comments. The purpose of the article was to outline the positive aspects of the policy goals. However, I agree that New Zealand has a long way to go to achieve them.

Agriculture, as you mentioned, is the major contributor of greenhouse gases, yet will not be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme until 2013, due to a prior Memorandum of Understanding with the government. This is a major hurdle to reducing emissions, as current economic drivers are encouraging deforestation of land for conversion into dairy farming. New Zealand aims to lead research into decreasing agricultural emissions and have increased funding to do so.

Coal production has devastating effects on New Zealand’s biodiversity as well as contributing to climate change (www.savehappyvalley.org.nz). Furthermore, methane emissions from coal mining are not set to by included in the Emissions Trading Scheme (See: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0709/S00284.htm )

I too am disillusioned by further spending on roads; the obsession with the private motor vehicle has led the government to plan to reduce emissions by widely deploying electric vehicles. As these are not manufactured in New Zealand, emissions caused in manufacturing will not count towards New Zealand’s Kyoto liability. I believe that more meaningful reductions are to be achieved through demand-side management that the Ministry of Transport is investigating.

A useful critique of the Emissions Trading Scheme by the Green Party, discusses some of the issues you have raised, see: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0709/S00356.htm


Posted by: Josephine Howitt on 22 Oct 07

This piece fails to mention that the New Zealand government is hindering rather than helping one of the key industries in developing a sustainable energy infrastructure... Solar. they are trying to enforce price capping through so called solar schemes and are allowing regional councils to promote the installation of heat pumps which no matter how economical they are still consume electricity placing more strees on our elctricval generation industry


Posted by: Richard Morgan on 23 Oct 07

not an expert at all on the NZ energy plan, what stikes me is the low ambitions that are communicated through the information leaflets to the general public, very 70-80-ies imho, no or very little mention of alternative energy resources, energy saving can be much more ambitious than this. But then again, maybe this level is just within reach for the NZ general public?


Posted by: wiebrand on 24 Oct 07

I live in New Zealand and personally doubt if this plan becomes reality though I wish it would. The main source of electric power is hydro yet this is in decline. The main reason is because so many interest groups prevent new schemes being built.

The law gives so much power of veto to groups of several hundred people or less. I am not doubting that NZ could get all its energy from renewables but just that the current law, and a few bloody minded individuals will prevent it. NZ is one of the least densely populated countries in the whole world and produces over 3 times its annual food consumption.

Recently a proposed new hydro scheme was stopped by a group of less than 100 kayakers who believe they 'own' a river. A 540 MW hydro scheme was prevented by farmers who wanted 'their' water for irrigation. A 110 MW scheme was reduced to 70 MW by some anglers who believed they 'owned' the river. Wind power schemes can be stopped because they may 'frighten horses'.

Basically you have to go to court to get anything done here now. A government full of lawyers had made laws that will hamstring the country for years to come.


Posted by: Ben in New Zealand on 4 Nov 07

Let's not forget the amount of water that is 'spilled' by the Clyde Dam in keeping to its resource consented output of 430 MW max output when it can generate 480 MW. How crazy these environment lawyers are and what fees they got to come up with this lunacy!


Posted by: Ben in New Zealand on 5 Nov 07



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