New data released by Stats NZ suggest Aotearoa has turned a corner in greenhouse gas emissions, reducing from a pre-pandemic peak of 21 million tonnes in March 2019 to 18.4 million tonnes in December last year. But the story for each industry sector is a little more complex than the total might suggest. Both mining and commercial transport emissions have increased, while an economic slowdown has led to reductions in agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing. Record rainfall teamed with new solar and wind generation has meant our energy sector has been flush with renewable power—rather than importing and burning coal—resulting in a whopping reduction of 1.7 million tonnes of emissions. So has New Zealand really turned a corner? Can we sustain these lower numbers? The graph suggests it’s possible. In the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, emissions plummeted from 21 to 18.3 million tonnes, then rebounded to 20 million within months, but the trendline since 2019 describes a long downward ramp—not yet fast enough to meet our climate goals and obligations, but heading in the right direction nonetheless.
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