New Zealand is using more than six times its fair share of the global carbon budget required to avert the worst effects of climate change.
An analysis commissioned by the Government on New Zealand’s outsized environmental footprint comes as it faces its biggest test on climate action thus far.
On February 1, the Climate Change Commission is expected to release its draft advice on national emissions budgets, setting required emission reductions for three five-year periods.
New Zealand is one of a handful of OECD countries to increase gross emissions since 1990, doing so more than all countries except Turkey, Iceland, and Australia; In terms of net emissions chnages since 1990, it ranks 42nd of the 43 industrialised countries making up the Annex 1 nations within the United Nation’s climate treaty, beating only Turkey.
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Some countries have announced more ambitious targets under the Paris Agreement. New Zealand has stuck with its old target, although advice on strengthening it will be provided this year by the Climate Change Commission.
In this context, a new report detailing New Zealand’s pollution footprint showed how much needs to be done.
Commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment and produced by several European climate groups, the report analyses whether New Zealand is acting within global environmental limits.
Using the “planetary boundaries” framework – which was devised by scientists in 2009, and estimates limits for preserving the Earth’s life-sustaining capacity – it concluded New Zealand was contributing more than its fair share on four of five environmental issues examined.
Notably, it breached the boundaries for climate change “to a large degree”.
“New Zealand exceeds all identified climate per capita allocations assessed for this report, from lower to upper estimates of certainty in avoiding temperature overshoot, for both 1.5 deg C and 2 deg C goals,” the report concluded.
On a per capita basis, this meant New Zealand was consuming 6.5 times its fair share of the carbon emissions remaining to keep global warming below 1.5C. At its current rate, it would exhaust its fair share of the budget within just five years, leaving other countries to make-up the difference.
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