Would you believe it – we’ve improved our efficiency at producing greenhouse gases! That’s one way to find a good edge to a pretty bad result. Here’s what Michele Lloyd, the environmental-economic statistics manager at Stats NZ, is reported as saying in the NZ Herald:
“New Zealand is producing more greenhouse gases but is being much more efficient in doing so.”
She was commenting on the Environmental Economics Accounts issued recently by Stats NZ. The report showed that greenhouse gas emissions rose more slowly than economic growth in the last 25 years. Agriculture, for example, increased its GDP 1.4% compared to an increase of 0.6% in its carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions. Overall our emissions grew by 24% in the 25 years from 1990 to 2015 which means we’ll stay as the fifth largest emitter per capita for a while yet.
James Shaw, who has both the statistics portfolio and climate change, made this comment, reported by Newsroom:
“What this shows is that it’s possible for you to have economic development and at the same time, reduce greenhouse gas emissions….The net number is still increasing. That’s the bad news but we know that it is possible to actually reduce, per unit, the amount of production.”
Is he talking about “green growth”? Can we produce more and emit less? Carbon emissions might be the most immediate problem but growth implies the inexhaustible supply of resources. Our Climate Declaration commits us to moving beyond growth to a sustainable system - which might resemble the Doughnut variety described by Kate Raworth, to name but one economist who would get us out of the growth hole.
And then there’s the report on forestry. We should have been reforesting every bit of available land but since 2013 tree planting has plummeted to negligible while the numbers of trees felled has increased. The reason is related to the falling price of carbon, internationally, compared with dairy. There’s more profit in cows than trees.
Good news? Not in that report. But the Auckland War Memorial Museum has announced that in the seven or so years since they began monitoring the institution’s carbon footprint it has reduced by 50%. Every lightbulb in the place is LED, including those outside. They’ve installed state of the art, electricity efficient air conditioning that keeps the temperature to 22 degrees. (We’ll all need efficient air conditioning in the hotter years to come.)
The roof, behind the heritage façade, has 189 solar panels which generate 66,000kWh a year (the equivalent power consumed by about eight households), making it one of the largest grid-connected PV installations in the country. All the electricity is used on site and powers the outside LED lights.
Here’s what else they’ve achieved:
- Reduced consumption of natural gas by 64%
- Reduced electricity usage by 36%
- Made annual energy savings of $400,000
- Reduced waste to landfill carbon emissions by 72%
- Reduced carbon emissions from staff air travel by 39%