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Coal And Agriculture Put Waikato Ahead In Emission Statistics

The Waikato region’s contribution to the 2.1 per cent national increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the 2019 year reflects the region’s vital role in New Zealand’s electricity generation, primary sector and goods producing industries.

Waikato Regional Council chair Russ Rimmington says the region’s diverse economy has a high proportion of primary and goods producing industries which tend to have higher emissions than service industries.

Today, Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa released regional greenhouse gas emissions statistics for 2019 which showed the Waikato is the highest emitting region in New Zealand and experienced the largest annual increase (up 1085 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, or 7.5 per cent, from 2018).

“It’s important to note that Stats NZ says the nationwide increase is due to coal use for electricity generation, and to a lesser extent an increase in agricultural emissions,” said Cr Rimmington.

“The year 2019, like every year since, was rather dry so as a country we had to rely on electricity generated by imported coal. Of course, we have the Huntly power station here in the Waikato, so that much-needed electricity for the country was generated in our region with the emissions included in our regional statistics.

“The report by Stats NZ also says the Waikato accounted for 20 per cent of agricultural emissions in New Zealand and that is not surprising given we are one of the most productive agricultural regions in New Zealand.”

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Cr Rimmington said there had been a shift in the last two years, with some industry starting to respond to the national commitment to reduce our emission levels and legislation being developed to achieve that, such as the national emissions reduction plan (now due in early 2022).

“We’re already seeing work being done in the agricultural sector through the primary sector climate action partnership, He Waka Eke Noa, and hats off to our largest dairy manufacturer, Fonterra, which recently reported reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal by 11 per cent in a year, primarily by converting its Te Awamutu site from coal to renewable wood pellets.”

Climate Action Committee chair Jennifer Nickel said the council recognised the need to urgently reduce emissions and adapt to the changes already being experienced and coming in the future.

"I am heartened to see more national, regional and local climate action policy changes coming through, but there is a lot of lost time to make up.

"Last year we released our Climate Action Roadmap discussion document to give our organisational perspective on climate change and to invite any feedback to our approach or partnership opportunities to address both emission reduction and community adaptation efforts.

“We’re wanting to work with iwi partners, businesses, industry sectors, infrastructure providers, local and central government and others to come up with solutions for a more inclusive, efficient and climate resilient economy.

“Our Waikato Regional Policy Statement supports the development of renewable energy, such as geothermal, wind and tide, while our regional land transport plan recognises that we must do much more to change the way we travel and move goods around, particularly through increased active and public transport service provisions.”

Changes in household emissions were largely driven by transport emissions, which accounted for just over 90 per cent of total household emissions for all regions in 2019. While nationwide household emissions decreased 0.3 per cent, the Waikato’s household emissions increased 65 kilotonnes or 6.0 per cent. This increase coincided with the Auckland regional fuel tax and the introduction of new lower cost self-help outlet fuel businesses, with a main source of supply of the fuel coming from Hamilton.

Cr Nickel said it would require a collective effort to reduce the region’s carbon footprint, and everyone had a role to play.

“Individually, and most certainly at an organisational level, we can make conscious choices to make fuel and energy savings.

“Here at Waikato Regional Council, we have reduced our emissions by just over 44 per cent since 2016-17, including 14.5 per cent in the last year.”

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