New Zealand likes to call itself clean, green, 100% pure. But, the better informed among us know this lacks a basis in reality.
A few years ago the then Prime Minister likened the 100% pure catch-phrase to a McDonald’s advertising campaign and said it wasn’t to be taken seriously. Yet, the country’s tourism industry is still using it, and New Zealanders have absorbed this kool-aid into their DNA.
Now the Spinoff.co.nz has written a piece for Climate Change Week, further taking down the myth.
The article, written by Paul Young, starts by comparing the net greenhouse gas emissions for the UK and NZ, saying they were in “stark contrast” and compiled graphs for the two countries based on UNFCCC data. Most of the increase in New Zealand is from energy and industry. Furthermore, New Zealand’s forestry carbon sink has been depleted as deforestation increased and new plantings declined:
A tale of two countries
Outgoing Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright’s final report last month highlighted the stark contrast between the UK and New Zealand. There, net greenhouse gas emissions fell by 38% from 1990 to 2015 (with most of that decrease occurring in the last decade). Here, net emissions grew by 64% in the same time period.
100% pure? Try absolutely, positively dirty
Paul Young then observes that the UK’s emissions for every sector except transport reduced significantly since 1990.
A comparison is made between the sectors, showing that New Zealand’s increase in emissions has been caused by transport, other energy, industrial processes and agriculture.
What is immediately evident is that New Zealand has made very little reduction in any of its sectors – there’s a slight drop for power, and a whisker for waste, but these are dwarfed by the huge reductions made by the UK, especially in waste and energy.
Next, New Zealand’s carbon emission performance is compared with other developed countries, using emissions per capita and per unit of GDP. “New Zealand is one of the most emissions-intensive countries by either measure”.
Sweden, Switzerland, Chile, France, and Spain are way ahead of New Zealand, but what is startling is that New Zealand’s non carbon dioxide GHG emissions are far and beyond the highest in the developed world…
As you can see, New Zealand is one of a small handful of developed countries whose emissions have grown since 2010. Chile (which only just meets the World Bank’s ‘high-income’ threshold and has low per capita emissions) and Japan (whose emissions increase was due to increased reliance on coal and gas following the Fukushima disaster) can arguably make excuses. South Korea, Canada and New Zealand will struggle to come up with justifications…
…it is possible that New Zealand has had the highest growth in net emissions in the developed world since 2010.
New Zealand’s inconvenient truth
The article ends with the stark summary that New Zealand is doing very poorly at reducing its emissions and is one of the developed world’s highest emitters per capita and per unit of GDP.
In-line with other observations E2NZ.org has been making about kool-aid, myths, and excuses, the author states:
We continue to rely on excuses (or myths), rather than look at the real reasons for our poor performance, like our weak and ineffective laws and policies.
I suspect most New Zealanders are unaware of this information, and many will be shocked. If we want to be true to the values we espouse and the stories we tell about our nation, we need to stop kidding ourselves with soothing platitudes, and get to work.
New Zealand needs to do the hard yards
Its time for New Zealand to put aside its slick, misleading marketing, and actually do the hard yards with reducing its carbon emissions, rather than relying on ad campaigns to do the job.
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