New Zealand: on the road to carbon neutrality

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.

Article reference: WorldChanging 

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2 Responses to New Zealand: on the road to carbon neutrality

  1. Dan says:

    This sounds awesome. Does anyone know what their approach to offsetting is? No-one can be ‘carbon neutral’ without buying offsets, and for New Zealand to be carbon neutral by 2025 they are going to have to by *a lot*.

  2. matt says:

    Good point. Maybe you could investigate Dan as that’s your specialism. But I agree, their overall plan does look comprehensive.

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