industrial processes and product use (IPPU) (eg, metals, minerals and chemicals)
This is not to understate the impact agriculture has on our environment, this has just been covered in our environment policy. Ultimately there is a need for joined up policy when it comes to land use.
TOP will be proactive in developing improvements where we can achieve the best marginal benefit for each dollar spent. We are also prepared to invest in our long term future, which while carrying large upfront costs, will have the greatest impact in reducing our emissions in the long run.
As we have mentioned the government has not done any sort of long-term analysis or planning towards even its 2020 target, which is why the critical first step is to set up a framework similar to what the UK has done with their Climate Change Act.
- The Climate Change Act established a legally binding target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below base year levels by 2050
- The Act introduced a system of carbon budgets which provide legally binding limits on the amount of emissions that may be produced in successive five-year periods, beginning in 2008.
- The first three carbon budgets were set in law in May 2009 and require emissions to be reduced by at least 34% below base year levels in 2020
- The fourth carbon budget, covering the period 2023–27, was set in law in June 2011 and requires emissions to be reduced by 50% below 1990 level (GOVTUK, 2013).
Using the pathways identified by the IPCC that we listed earlier we can begin to develop a plan forward for a carbon neutral New Zealand.
Pathway 1 : Decarbonisation of electricity
New Zealand is ahead of most countries concerning decarbonizing electricity (thanks mainly to the legacy of our hydroelectricity plants). It is still crucial we continue to develop these systems, and with our enviable renewable energy resources, powering our country on 100% clean energy appears possible through a combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that already exist today.
We would not be the first country to commit to such an ambitious target, with Denmark already striving to make this a reality. While comparisons across countries are difficult it is worth mentioning that Denmark is starting from behind New Zealand in its current share of total energy from renewables (roughly 22% versus 32%), and has lower per capita renewable energy resources (GenZero,2014).
We have the highest renewable energy potential per capita of any country in the world (Underhill, 2014). This is of course helped by our small population and abundance of space and resource. We should see this for the potential it holds, rather than an excuse for inactivity.
Our Government has maintained a goal of achieving 90% renewable electricity by 2025, introduced by the last Labour Government. However tracking reports and future projections from MBIE show that under business as usual we will fail to achieve this (GenZero, 2014). We must ensure we achieve these targets, while also looking at other ways to harness this sector. Geothermal energy for example is abundant in New Zealand, as is wind, hydro, and bioenergy. Continuing to develop technology that can harness these sources is a priority.
Moving to a 100% renewable system will also require new technology to manage electricity demand without thermal generation as a back-up.
Pathway 2: Massive electrification (using that clean electricity) and, where that is not possible, Decarbonising Development a switch to lower-carbon fuels.
The figure below shows a snapshot of how our energy is produced and consumed here in New Zealand.
Source: GenZero, 2014
While it is important to develop clean renewable resources it is clear we are still hugely reliant on fossil fuels, with approximately 60% of primary energy coming from petrol, coal, oil and gas. It is not possible right now to remove all these fossil fuels (e.g. coal is needed to make steel) however it is possible to substitute the use of coal elsewhere (e.g. Fonterra milk driers).
Fuel Shifting & Transport
The energy sector makes up 40% of our gross emissions, or 32.2 Mt CO2-e, an increase of 36% since 1990. We have been attempting to reduce our reliance on coal-fired and gas-fired generation as we progress toward more renewable sources that we have touched on, such a hydro, geothermal, and wind power, however as our economy is still geared towards oil and gas. Any upturn in production,
like we saw in 2014, offsets any current gains we have made in clean energy – our emissions rose 1.2% between 2013-2014 after decreasing during the economic downturn (MFE, 2016).
Our biggest reliance is on liquid fuel, specifically related to transport.
Source: MBIE (2014)
The transport sector produces 14 million tonnes of C02 with 90% of this being on road transport; 7% on domestic aviation and the remainder on trains and shipping (GenZero, 2014). This can almost exclusively be attributed to fossil fuels. All up around 10% of our total greenhouse emissions come from driving cars; internationally transportation accounts for around 18% of human GHG emissions.
Reducing transport emissions requires a comprehensive set of strategies; urban design, equipping cities with increased public transit, biking and walking options and more efficient cars, trucks, planes, and ships that use increasingly lower-carbon sources of energy.
Different models have been applied by other countries to address transport fossil emissions. Canada and the US have for example concentrated on decarbonisation development, putting in place stringent greenhouse gas standards for vehicles; in 2025 for example passenger vehicles and light trucks will emit about half as many greenhouse gases as 2008 models. New Zealand has no fuel emissions standards (since they were scrapped by the current government in 2009) (GenZero,2014).
Governments including California, China, India, the Netherlands and Norway are leading full-scale shifts to electric vehicles including plug-in hybrid, battery and fuel-cell vehicles. Consumer demand is on the rise, and manufacturers like GM, Nissan, Tesla and others are starting to bring affordable EVs to market.
According to the International Energy Agency, EVs should account for at least 75 percent of car sales by 2050.
Pathway 3: Greater efficiency and less waste in all sectors.
One of the most easily implementable ways to reduce emissions is through efficiency improvements, as they often bear a low relative cost making them an effective starting point for action. A climate report released by consultants McKinsey & Company developed a cost curve exploring potential interventions.
The following from the report all produced significant emissions savings at a relatively low cost.
- Fuel efficient commercial vehicles
- Lighting systems
- Water heating
Heat accounts for 28% of consumer end-use energy (Royal Society, 2016) , and is often ignored in energy policy. The graph below illustrates our reliance on non-renewable energy to produce this heat.
The buildings sector is the main user of this energy and is indirectly responsible for around 20% of New Zealand’s energy-related GHG emissions. These mostly arise from the consumption of fossil fuels to meet the demand for heating and cooking, as well as the thermal share of electricity generation when used for appliances, heating, ventilation and cooling (Royal Society, 2016).
Internationally, existing buildings require over 40% of the world’s total final energy consumption, and account for 36% of emissions in the EU.
As an example of progressive legislation the EU has developed two main laws to improve the energy efficiency of their housing, the 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive. One of the requirements is that all new buildings must be nearly zero energy buildings by 31 December 2020 (public buildings by 31 December 2018). The laws also regulate current building stock; about 35% of the EU's buildings are over 50 years old. By improving the energy efficiency of these buildings there is the potential to reduce total EU energy consumption by 5-6% and lower CO2 emissions by about 5%.
The majority of buildings that will be in existence in 2050 have already been built so we also need to concentrate on imp roving the performance of current building stock. Cost effective, easily implementable measures such as those listed above are an easy, efficient first step to reduce emissions by lowering demand for power.
Linked to this idea of investment cost is how benefits accrue over a lifetime. Achieving legitimate climate targets requires cohesive strategies involving all types of developments, however one of the major factors we look at when developing policy is the long term impact.
Typical lifetimes and opportunities for replacement
important energy supply and end-use equipment and infrastructure
The graph above shows that overall buildings have one of the longest replacement cycles, and coupling this with the fact that they contribute such a large percentage of our energy usage means that regulation is crucial. While retrofitting is, as mentioned earlier, an effective method at reducing emissions, ensuring that new buildings are up to an energy efficient standard ensures that we are not further committing to future emissions . While we value changes such as conversion to electric vehicles, we see investment in buildings as more of a priority due to the long term benefits.
Pathway 4: Improved carbon sinks (such as forests, vegetation, and soil).
Preserving and improving carbon sinks is a crucial component in reducing net emissions. We are lucky in New Zealand having such an abundance of land that gives us one of the more effective carbon sequestration systems in the OECD.
Source: OECD (2014)
Our Forests currently sink around 24.4 Mt of C02, however this number continues to decrease as we rip out more and more trees, predominantly to convert the land to dairy.
- According to Ministry for the Environment, our rate of forest removals since 2008 has been greater than our rate of forest planting, averaging around 8,500 hectares per year
- Global Forest Watch puts our net loss of tree cover between 2001–2014 at 139,793 hectares
- The 2015 Environment Aotearoa report, using land cover satellite imagery, found that between 1996 and 2014 we lost more than 10,000 hectares of native forest and regenerating forest.
If we continue at this rate our sequestration levels will more than half to around 11 .4 Mt by 2030.
Deforestation also heightens our vulnerability to various kinds of environmental damage and degradation, such as hillside erosion, flood incidence, soil deterioration, and poorer water quality.
The scale of erosion-prone land in pasture in New Zealand is vast. A 2007 Ministry for the Environment report put this at 1,140,367 hectares—that is, 4.25% of New Zealand’s total land area. Slips caused by erosion not only carry a large environmental cost, but also a fiscal one. For example the weather bomb experienced in the Central North Island in 2015 caused around $70 million worth of damage mostly as a result of erosion on sheep and beef farms. These costs include clean-up costs, degradation of assets, lost economic opportunities, reduced productivity, compensation costs etc (PureAdvantage, 2016).
A PCE report identifies 1.1 million hectares of erosion-prone marginal land as appropriate for planting. There are a number of projects that exist and are attempting to do this, however we need a concerted plan in order to make planting on such a large scale a possibility.
If this land was successfully planted in native trees they would sequester 318 million tonnes of C02 by 2050, an average of 9 million tonnes of CO2 every year. That would get us about two-thirds of the way back to 1990 levels if our gross emissions remain at their current level. Alternatively, if we planted those 1.1 million hectares in Pinus radiata, we could sequester carbon at over three times that rate, however the sequestration effect wouldn’t last as long (PureAdvantage,2016) .
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