Greenhouse gas emissions rise – report


The latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory issued by the Ministry for the Environment shows gross greenhouse gas emissions increased by 21 percent between 1990 and 2020.

Read the New Zealand Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2020

The major contributors were methane from an increase in dairy cattle numbers and carbon dioxide from road transport.

However, gross emissions decreased by 3.5 percent between 2019 and 2020. This decrease was driven by COVID-19 restrictions, which reduced emissions from road transport, manufacturing industries and construction, domestic aviation, and the industrial processes and product use sector.

Sectors covered by the inventory are:

  • Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU)
  • Waste
  • Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)

The inventory shows New Zealand’s gross greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 were 78.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Gross emissions in 2020 comprised 43.7 percent carbon dioxide, 43.5 percent methane, 10.7 percent nitrous oxide, and 2.0 percent fluorinated gases. Gross emissions include emissions from all sectors except LULUCF.

The agriculture and energy sectors were the two largest contributors to New Zealand’s gross emissions in 2020, at 50.0 percent and 39.9 percent, respectively.

The increase in gross emissions since 1990 is mostly due to increases in methane emissions from the dairy cattle population and carbon dioxide from road transport due to traffic growth.

Activities to reduce or capture greenhouse gas emissions from the LULUCF sector have had a beneficial impact in removing emissions from the atmosphere since 1990. In 2020, the LULUCF sector offset 29.6 percent of New Zealand’s gross emissions.

New Zealand’s net emissions in 2020 were 55.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Net emissions in the inventory are gross emissions combined with both emissions and removals from LULUCF.

The inventory indicates New Zealand will meet its international 2020 emissions reduction target under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

New Zealand will meet its 2020 target through a combination of emission reductions, removals, and international units (in line with the Kyoto Protocol’s rules).