New Zealand's emissions profile is different to that of most other 43 Annex I countries. This is because nearly half of New Zealand’s emissions come from the Agriculture sector (48 per cent). Typically, the Agriculture sector constitutes only a small proportion of gross emissions (12.3 per cent on average in Annex I countries).
All emissions data in this section are from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Data Interface (2020). Annex I data in these comparisons count the members of the European Union (EU) separately, and exclude the EU as a whole. Note that the comparison is made with Annex I countries because these countries all use the same methodologies to report their emissions.
The high level of agricultural production in New Zealand means we produce a lot of methane and nitrous oxidehave a greater warming effect compared with carbon dioxide. Based on the latest available Inventory data for 2018 for Annex 1 countries, New Zealand’s gross emissions ranked 24th among the Annex I countries, but New Zealand’s emissions per person were the sixth highest at 16.9 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) per capita.
Annex I to the UNFCCC lists the industrialised countries that were members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1992 (the year in which the UNFCCC was agreed), and countries with economies in transition at the time. Countries listed in Annex I that are Parties to the UNFCCC are required to report regularly on their climate change data, policies and measures, including (if appropriate) issues governed by the Kyoto Protocol.
New Zealand’s gross carbon dioxide emissions in 2018 were 7.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, (CO2-e) per capita, which is below the Annex I average of 10.9 tonnes of CO2-e per capita. This reflects New Zealand’s high proportion of electricity generation from renewable sources. In 2019, the share of electricity generated from renewable energy sources in New Zealand was 82 per cent.
New Zealand's gross emissions contributed approximately 0.17 per cent of the world’s gross emissions. However, gross emissions have increased since 1990, whereas in many other Annex I countries (eg, the United Kingdom and Germany) emissions are now below 1990 levels.
Read the long description for International comparisons for per capita emissions (in million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, Mt CO2-e) in 2018
Figure 9 is a bar graph that compares emissions per capita for several different countries in 2018. The average for Annex 1 countries (as named by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) are compared with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The Annex and each country show two bars which represent carbon dioxide only per capita and emissions of all gases per capita. Emissions are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
In particular, it shows that in 2018:
- Annex 1 countries on average had 10.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita, and 12.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of all gases per capita.
- Australia had 17.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita, and 23.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of all gases per capita.
- Japan had 8.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita, and 9.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of all gases per capita.
- New Zealand had 7.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita, and 16.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of all gases per capita.
- The United Kingdom had 5.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita, and 7.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of all gases per capita
- The United States of America had 16.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita, and 20.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of all gases per capita.
The Inventory data are used to monitor progress towards the international 2013–2020 emissions reduction target under the UNFCCC, to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 gross GHG levels. Progress towards the 2020 target is contained in the Ministry for the Environment’s 2020 Net Position Report, which is updated when a new Inventory is published.
The net position shows that New Zealand is projected to meet its 2020 target and have a surplus of units. New Zealand’s net position comprises of:
- a carbon budget of 509.8 million units
- projected carbon dioxide removals from forestry and land-use activities included in the Kyoto Protocol corresponding to 109.2 million units
- a surplus of 28.3 million units from the first commitment period (CP1) of the Kyoto Protocol (2008–2012). Initially, 123.7 million units were carried over from CP1. However, the Crown cancelled 95.4 million units with questionable or unknown environmental integrity in 2020, leaving a remainder of 28.3 million units. This net position shows that an estimated 23.1 million of these CP1 units will be needed to meet the 2020 target.
This means that while New Zealand’s projected gross emissions are higher than the carbon budget, projections show that we will still meet the 2020 target.
A carbon budget is the maximum quantity of emissions our targets allow us to emit over a defined period of time.
A unit in the net position report represents one tonne of GHG emissions as carbon dioxide equivalent.
Read the long description for New Zealand’s projected gross emissions (Mt CO2-e) and units for the 2013–2020 period
Figure 10 is a bar graph that has a bar on the left of New Zealand’s cumulative gross emissions (measured in million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) and units for the 2013–2020 period. This includes data from the 2021 inventory for 2013-2019, and projections for 2020. The bar on the right shows how the target is met from a combination of the carbon budget for the period, forestry activities and first commitment period units.
In particular, it shows:
- The left hand bar is gross emissions in New Zealand over the 2013–2020 period which were 642.0 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The bar on the right is made up of:
- The carbon budget units for the 2013–2020 period contribute 509.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
- The forestry activities units contribute 109.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
- The first commitment period (CP1) units contribute 23.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
How New Zealand compares to other countries
© Ministry for the Environment