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no significant change    NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE

(note: trend indicator above is relative to 2007 WPI baseline year total emissions).

National annual greenhouse gas emissions appear to have stabilised.

This indicator shows the trend in national annual total greenhouse gas emissions and the latest available Waikato regional information.

Why is this indicator important?

Climate change is an issue requiring urgent collective action at the regional, national and international levels. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, people’s activities are affecting the earth’s energy ‘budget’ through increases in greenhouse gas emissions, the use of aerosols and by changing land surface properties. Atmospheric concentrations of important greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides have increased over the last few centuries.

The effects of these gases have been documented in compelling evidence of climate change gathered from scientific observations of changes to the atmosphere, land, oceans and cryosphere (for example, ice core records). There is evidence of climate change effects, including raised temperatures and sea levels and increased frequency of extreme weather events. The occurrence of these changes is projected to become more pronounced, and the rate of change more rapid over time. Changes in climate can have major impacts on our safety, health, economy and infrastructure, and how and where we can live.

National total greenhouse gas emissions (000 tonnes CO2 equivalents)

Greenhouse gas 2019

Year National total gross greenhouse gas emissions (000 tonnes C02 equivalents)
1990 65,668
1991 66,491
1992 67,621
1993 67,383
1994 68,703
1995 69,412
1996 71,541
1997 74,327
1998 72,236
1999 74,083
2000 76,180
2001 79,103
2002 79,387
2003 81,591
2004 81,251
2005 83,270
2006 83,442
2007 81,325
2008 81,267
2009 78,477
2010 78,965
2011 78,679
2012 81,055
2013 80,541
2014 81,310
2015 81,202
2016 79,136
2017 80,853

What is this indicator telling us?

  • New Zealand’s contribution to global gross greenhouse gas emissions is small (0.17%), but we have the fifth-highest level of emissions per person of the 35 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2017; cited in MfE & SNZ 2017).

  • According to latest available information, New Zealand’s annual gross greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were 80.9 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (t CO2e). This is 23% higher than in 1990.

  • National gross greenhouse gas emissions grew rapidly over the period 1990 to 2006 and have remained high. There has been no significant trend in annual emission levels since 2007, the baseline year for Waikato Progress Indicators (WPI) progress monitoring.

  • The Agriculture and Energy sectors are the two largest contributors to New Zealand’s emissions profile, at approximately 48% and 41% respectively in 2017.
  • Given the influence of forests on New Zealand’s emissions, at any given point in time, net emissions are strongly influenced by national forest planting and harvesting cycles.
  • Comparing emissions growth to real GDP over time suggests there has been a relative decoupling of economic growth from emissions growth in recent decades. For example, New Zealand’s real GDP increased at an average annual rate of 3.1 percent over the period 1990 to 2015 while emissions increased at an average 0.9 percent per annum over the same period (0.5 percent for primary industries, 1.2 for goods-producing industries, 2.2 for service industries) (source: Statistics New Zealand’s Environmental-economic accounts 2018).
  • In 2017, Waikato Regional Council commissioned the first baseline report for Waikato Region’s Community-scale Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory. This shows that activities within Waikato Region’s boundaries generated 13.8 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (t CO2e) between July 2015 and June 2016. Agricultural activities generate the largest amount of the gross emissions (75.5%) for Waikato, followed by transportation (11.7%) and stationary energy (9.7%). Forestry removes a net volume of 5.6 million t CO2e (41% of the total gross emissions). With forestry included, the total net emissions are 8.2 t CO2e, which represents about 14.5% of New Zealand’s total net emissions. On a per capita basis, Waikato’s agricultural emissions are almost three times higher than the national per capita average, while the forestry sector removes more than double the national average. Due to its emissions profile, Waikato Region would need to focus its reduction efforts on agriculture as well as consider options for maintaining or increasing its carbon removal potential (forestry). Within agriculture, a focus on methane emissions reduction is needed since it makes up about 70% of agricultural emissions.
  • The Ministry for the Environment publishes projections of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions as part of its climate change commitments. New Zealand’s third biennial report (2017) shows that with current measures (i.e. mitigation actions), gross emissions are projected to decrease from 81.0 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouses gases in 2016 to 77.2 million in 2030 – approximately 7% below 2005 levels but still around 17% above 1990 levels.
  • According to the latest net update (April 2019), New Zealand is projected to meet its unconditional 2020 emissions reduction target with a surplus of 96.8 units.
  • New Zealand’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change is a target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Check out related information on our website and other organisations’ websites listed on our Waikato Progress Indicators’ Useful Links page.

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National data are published annually in April through the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) website - New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Summary data was sourced from the Interactive Emissions Tracker data (gross emissions, time series).

Figures relate to New Zealand’s annual total greenhouse gas emissions (Gg CO2 equivalent). Total emissions include those from the energy, industrial processes, solvent and other product use, agriculture and waste sectors, but do not include net removals from the ‘LULUCF’ sector (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry).

New Zealand’s total (and net) emissions under the Climate Change Convention from 1990 to most recent year are plotted in the Inventory Report, and latest figures are cited and tabulated in the text and downloadable.

Information on trends in the link between greenhouse gas emissions and GDP growth are from Statistics New Zealand’s Environmental-economic accounts 2018:

Projections of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions are published in national communication and biennial reports tracking progress towards meeting internationally-agreed climate change commitments:

Latest net position description is from MfE:

Additional text (OECD comparison and Paris Agreement commitment) from Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand (2017) 'Our atmosphere and climate 2017', New Zealand Environmental Reporting Series, 19 October 2017:

Update details: Annual national data to 2017, with 2018 data expected in April/May 2020.

Customised data request requirements: Nil


Territorial Authority (TA) disaggregation: No

Other regions: No

New Zealand: Yes

Other countries/ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):  Yes