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  • Rights: Crown Copyright 2020, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
    Published 15 October 2020 Referencing Hub media

    Climate experts James Renwick and Drew Bingham explain where the bulk of Aotearoa’s greenhouse gas emissions come from and why we need to play our part in reducing them.

    Questions for discussion:

    • James says New Zealand has become rich on the back of burning fossil fuels. What does this mean?
    • What is one thing you can do to reduce your personal emissions?



    So does New Zealand have any impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions? The reality is that New Zealand is a fairly lightly populated country. We have an agricultural economy, we’re not really a heavily industrialised nation. So the total emissions of greenhouse gases from New Zealand is a tiny fraction of the global total. The big players – China, India, Brazil, the US and so on – they make up the majority of the emissions, but that doesn’t mean we get a free pass. If you look at per capita emissions, per head of population, New Zealand is right up there.


    Most of our carbon dioxide emissions are from our transport, so the cars that we drive. Most of the methane comes from our livestock – so dairy cows but also beef and sheep. Nitrous oxide mainly comes from the dung and urine of livestock.


    New Zealand has become rich on the back of burning fossil fuels, like most developed countries. So we all have to play our part. I think the role that New Zealand can play is to set an example for other countries. I think New Zealand could get to a zero-carbon economy a lot more easily than some countries could, but we can’t just do it ourselves – that actually wouldn’t make much difference for climate change. We’ve got to work together, and that’s the really big feature of this problem. It requires co-operation really, around the world, finding solutions and sharing them with other countries and other societies.

    Professor James Renwick, Victoria University of Wellington
    Drew Bingham, Ministry for the Environment
    Electric car footage, LEARNZ; solar power station, Benjamin Kenobi; wind turbine, Trust Power NSW, all released under CC BY-NC 3.0


    This resource has been produced with the support of the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ. (c) Crown Copyright.

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