Climate Action Tracker analysis: NZ emissions targets inadequate, not doing our fair share

TimGroser.jpgClimate Change Minister Tim Groser’s claim that New Zealand is doing its “fair share” of climate action has been blown out of the water by an international analysis [Full policy brief here (pdf)]. Once one removes what the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) calls the “creative accounting” of rules around land use and forestry, New Zealand’s newly announced 2030 target translates into an 11 percent increase by 2030. It’s even possible that we won’t have to lift a finger to cut emissions and yet still meet both our 2020 and 2030 targets.

They say our emissions are projected to head in the opposite direction from the world’s biggest emitters such as China, the United States and the European Union.

The CAT has rated New Zealand’s target “inadequate” – meaning that if everybody else made the same effort as NZ, warming would exceed 3-4ºC. And we’re not on track to reaching our (also rated inadequate) 2050 target. If we were even on the same track as the US’s 2050 goal, we’d have to increase our target to 45% reduction by 2030 below 2005 levels (30% below 1990).

It gets worse: in just ten years, CAT projects that the average New Zealander will have a bigger carbon footprint than a US citizen — worse than some of the most carbon profligate people on the planet.

The analysis also points out one of our biggest secrets: that the only substantial action taken on climate change by the Government since 2008 has been to weaken the ETS.

The main points of the CAT analysis are (from the press release):

  • Based on current policies NZ emissions per capita, while likely to remain stable at around 17 tonnes of CO2e per person (or decrease slightly), are set to surpass those of the US by around 2025. US per capita emissions in 2012 were 20.6 tonnes of CO2e per person and decreasing steadily. This reflects the underlying reality that while the United States is taking action on climate change with a wide range of policies, New Zealand has few policies in place to cut emissions, and has no emissions cap in its domestic Emission Trading System (ETS).
  • If New Zealand applies the rules it is proposing to use after 2020 to account for its Kyoto surplus and forestry credits, its overall agriculture, energy, waste and industrial greenhouse gas emissions could increase to 11% above 1990 levels by 2030;
  • New Zealand’s proposed 2030 INDC target is not on a direct path to its 50% reduction by 2050 goal, unlike other major economies such as the EU and the USA. But New Zealand’s 2050 goal is also insufficient, and would require a 45% reduction by 2030 below 2005 levels (30% below 1990).
  • There are virtually no policies in place to address the fastest-growing sources of emissions in New Zealand from transport and industrial sources, which comprise over 50% of the growth in emissions (excluding forestry) in New Zealand since 1990.
  • While New Zealand has not agreed to accept a legally binding commitment for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period, it appears to be planning to apply accounting rules that carry over surplus units from the first commitment period. This is something that is available to countries with commitments under the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, but not those without a commitment, like New Zealand. The legal basis upon which New Zealand is seeking to rely upon these accounting rules is therefore unclear.

The CAT analysis of current government policy is damning. Groser’s “fair and reasonable” spin was never credible, as domestic critics have pointed out, but it is now clear that in international policy circles Groser will be rowing against the tide.

When the Key government took office in 2008, it inherited a full suite of climate policies that if left alone would have set NZ on the path to a low-carbon economy. It has since weakened every aspect of emissions policy to the point where the Emissions Trading Scheme is so weak it in effect subsidises agriculture and big emitters. From being a world leader, it appears we now aspire to pariah status – joining the likes of Canada and Australia in the dunces corner. Terrible policy, terrible legacy.

See also:

CAT analyst interviewed on Morning Report.
Radio NZ News report.
NZ Herald.

61 thoughts on “Climate Action Tracker analysis: NZ emissions targets inadequate, not doing our fair share”

  1. The Climate Action Tracker report is an excellent analysis. It takes an in-depth look at the “gross to gross”, “net to net” and the “gross to net” Kyoto carbon accounting. We should rename New Zealand’s unique approach to carbon accounting as “gross to Groser”.
    Another piece of creative carbon accounting they point out is that New Zealand could start the 2020 to 2030 period with surplus Kyoto emissions units carried forward all the way through the second Kyoto committment period from the first 2008 to 2012 period!
    Another strange aspect of NZ policy (that I view as a mix of the inept and the bizarre) is the opting out of the Kyoto second committment period for the 2020 target but then applying the formulaic accounting rules of the Kyoto Protocol. I thought Tim had said “Kyoto, so yesterday!” back in 2012?
    Anyway, New Zealand has signed it’s agreement to a multilateral treaty. But not a single other signatory country is applying the treaty’s rules in the way New Zealand is. So in reality New Zealand is observing it’s obligations to this multilateral treaty with itself! A multilateral treaty with one country! TV satire, such as “The Thick of It” could not even make this nonsense up. This truly is the sound of one hand clapping.

    1. Agree, it’s bizarre. Ironically, if NZ had stayed in Kyoto, it’d be able to apply KP rules and legally carry over credits from CP1.

      Noting that in the negotiations around LULUCF and these rules, New Zealand is representing the Umbrella Group (Australia, Canada, Japan, US, Norway, Switzerland) and pushing to get these rules transferred into the Paris agreement. Hence its provisional language in the INDC – that the target is provisional on these rules being preserved, and new ones not being retroactive.

      it’s so transparent in its efforts to cheat!!

  2. What this National government is doing with regards to our climate change policy is nothing but embarrassing. For what do these jokers want to be remembered?

  3. To paraphrase Hans Schellnhuber, National want to be remembered as the people that screwed up the planet for the next 1000 years.

    For us carbon policy wonks the woeful cabinet paper behind the NZ INDC is on the MfE website. Quick overview: in between the many redactions it’s just a woefully bad collection of the usual special pleading about NZ ‘special circumstances’ we have unfortunately become used to. Not a single mention of the IPCC’s two degrees carbon budget. Not quite fully redacted out is that the paper floated the idea of a “split target” – dropping methane out of the proposal to aid pastoral farming.

    Also not sufficiently redacted is the Ministry for Primary Industry’s view that “progress with agricultural mitigation technology” is unlikely (paragraph 77).

  4. I guess National canvasses voters and figured that being sly and cunning and “preventing harm to NZ’s economy” is what voters want.
    And the reason voters want it is the fact that the public has been led to believe that “the science is not settled” or that the IPCC predictions are overblown. And why is this so? Because of the fraud committed against the public interest and education by right leaning media which are owned and controlled by right leaning interests who believe that burning the future for our descendants in order to heat today’s economy is an act of “conservative” policy.

    We truly live in Orwellian times where “Conservative” = “Slash and Burn”, where the “Libertarian” idea of “Freedom” is quite the opposite of the “Liberals” idea of “Freedom” and where “Science” = “Suspect”.

    How on Earth did we get there? How could we allow the Mark Morano’s of this planet to sell out our future to the devil? And how long will we have to wait until those who have orchestrated this nonsense are brought to justice?

    Perhaps the noose is tightening as some of the same law firms that brought big tobacco to their knees are sharpening their daggers already…

    1. The “libertarian” is different from the “liberal” because the term “liberal” was co-opted by the left in the US. This is why you hear the term “classical liberal”, do distinguish from the non-liberal leftist liberal.

      1. Fair comment Andy, however bringing back the term “classical liberal” will just confuse people. ACT call themselves classical liberals and I suspect most people just wonder what’s happening. Still if they want to make life hard for themselves, that is their fundamental human right.

        1. Obviously people will be confused by terms like “classical liberal”.

          Most people haven’t got a clue what any political ideology means

          Neither have most of the people in our parliament, I would also add.

      2. Fascinating Andy….
        But back to the topic: Just as the right to shove smokes down peoples craving was curtailed by law, so I hope will the right of the fossil fuel interests to sell science denial to the people by the process of law in the end.
        The correlation of cause and damages is clear. The conspiracy to delude the people is well researched. It is just about time now that this rotten bunch get what they deserve.

        1. Do you get good mileage out of your diesel vehicle? I recently changed my Impreza for a Polo TSI 1200 turbo. The fuel economy is amazing and for a small car it is really quite nippy

          Innovation is already solving some of these issues.

          1. The problem is that Exxon Koch et. al. are still spending large on blowing the smokescreens of science denial into the minds of the gullible right wing underbelly of our societies in the hope this might derail democratic action towards soling our problems. And in many peoples mind this is clearly a culpable activity.

            And yes, we have some outstanding innovations assisting us. However, as long as the energy savings of some simply mean that the saved fossil fuel is then burned elsewhere, nothing is won. We need to actually produce and burn less fossil fuels as a species and reduce our ff use to nothing in the next decades, if we want to have any hope to halt the pendulum of GW before its too late.
            Our low consumption vehicles are a step, but only if the fuel you and I save is not burned by others instead. This will demand policy and simple legislated limits to production and use.

  5. The climate sceptics might get ammunition based on the following issue. Firstly the evidence for AGW is based on multiple factors. We cant put the planet in the laboratory and perform a neat little experiment. Unfortunately this creates multiple factors for the sceptics to attack.

    Leighton Smith is an expert at this, with new drivel every day. I dont know what you do. Maybe the human species is infested with idiots and liars and we will just get what we deserve.

  6. Grosers policy of ‘fast follower’ sounds plausible but then he starts talking about Canada and Australia which are amongst the biggest polluters on the planet and on top of that have governments which are committed to developing oil and coal for economic reasons. Because we burn very little coal for electricity production we start out from a good place but from then on we are not at all good. We have almost no electrified rail system and what system we have is run down and all our transport expenditure is going into roads and dependant on imported oil.
    We are stuck with following old technology and thinking and not looking to the future at all. Everything I read about climate change is dire and our government is in denial.–news/what-will-the-world-be-like-in-202025

    1. Judging by the article above and other recent articles, NZ is rapidly becoming a slow follower, or possibly standing still, compared to America or Europe.

  7. Also well worth reading is Pattrick Smellie writing in Stuff.

    For a start, if New Zealand gets its way and is allowed to carry over carbon credits created by plantation forestry in the first 20 years of the century, it will be able to meet that target without implementing a single policy change.


    Pattrick Smellie in Scoop.

    New NZ climate change target ‘inadequate’, relies on ‘creative accounting’, says global watchdog

    1. Radio NZ’s morning report today should be noted.

      Apparently the Treasury also thinks NZ is not doing enough. Bill English considers our ETS sends the necessary price signals??? i.e. its a placebo as I have often said.

      Further he thinks that considering climate change while formulating government policy would result in “too much red tape”. We know they have no plan except to fool the population into believeing something is being done.. It complicates a strategy of deception awfully if one also has to consider real issues in that connection.

      I keep thinking of that recent court decision in Holland.

  8. What would Baldrick have said in Blackadder Goes Fourth? He would have said I have a cunning plan called an “ETS”.

    Rely on a purely market mechanism, that way we dont have to make annoying decisions about directly regulating the emitters. If things dont work, we have plausible denial and someone else to blame.

    Set the carbon price really low, but pretend it’s really high using Crosby Texter to provide suitable PR spin.

    Allow NZ to buy junk bonds, sorry I mean carbon credits from Europe.

    Put all our eggs in the forestry basket, and pray it actually works.

    Use creative accounting.

    Done. Pure genius.

  9. Indeed…. but as we all know (and JK and his smooth talking bs men also should know) the only “person in the room” that counts in all this, an Elephant actually, does not care one iota about creative accounting but only about reductions of global emissions on a huge scale. That “Elephant” of cause being the laws of nature and the planet as such…..

    But as long as 3rd grade politicians here and everywhere else, such as our bees in the hive, believe that they can outsmart nature with politicing, all is still lost for our children and countless generations thereafter…..

  10. ….” the climate change scam perpetrated by scientists out to make a fast back out of unsupecting tax-payers”…..

    Under which rock do you live Tony? Or perhaps the rock is that old brick between your ears….

    I guess in your wicked world you would rather have taxpayers fork out all they have to rebuild a significant proportion of the worlds cities on high ground and fork out to resettle hundreds of millions of climate change refugees or pay for the desperate wars fought over water and other resources…
    I guess that sort of expenditure is more comprehensible to you than the economic opportunities present in re-tooling our energy industry for a carbon-free future.

  11. 😳 mea culpa, please forgive me!

    I took your statement for real. I have occasionally ventured in tho the morass of Daily Caller and other pseudo news-sites where the people hang out who say these statements for real

  12. Thomas,

    Not a problem, perhaps I play the part of a–ehole skeptic too convincingly!
    I wonder what Groser’s answer to the vanishing bee problem is. The weasel politician’s general throw away line is technology will solve it. A genetically modified heat resistant bee perhaps is the way to go.

      1. A Washington Post article by a writer whose past employment included Brookings Institution (associated with Heritage Foundation) and Pew research. The article is very lazily based on a publication by,, an organisation dedicated to dreaming up and researching non-existent mechanisims by which the magic hand of the Market ensures the ultimate protection of the environment.

        Well really possums, did you expect a link supplied by Andy Scrase to be any different?.

        1. Forgive me, but how is being associated with Pew research considered a bad thing by you?

          I thought they were generally supportive of the consensus position on climate change

          Anyway, I appreciate that my link has no merit because it uses some facts that disagree with the prevalent paradigm that bees are endangered, just like Polar Bears

          1. Did I write that being employed by Pew Research was a bad thing?


            Pew research is simply one of the two previous employers that are disclosed by the writer.

          2. Andy, you really should try to catch the film “Merchants of Doubt”, even if only as a refresher course in cherry-picking, obfuscating and flat-out lying.

            1. Rob, I appreciate your link but before I spend two hours watching “Merchants of Doubt” , can you advise me of the relevance to the aforesaid issue of the bee problem!?

              I am as concerned about bees as the next person.

            2. Andy, to answer your question as to the relevance of the “Merchants of Doubt” to the bee problem, the film exposes a small group of b**s who lie about climate change for fun and profit.

              I am as concerned about the nefarious activities of those b**s as the next person.

              Who knows, perhaps you know some of them?

              Even, perhaps, you are one of them?

            3. Are you suggesting that I am “one of them”?

              I find you impertinent. How very dare you!

            4. Andy, your non-heteronormative gender confusions are entirely your own business; my only concern is the blatant cherry-picking, obfuscating and flat-out lying that you indulge in re climate change.

            5. It’s a shame that my attempt to inject a little humour into the proceedings is met with such venom.

            6. It is a shame that my attempt to inject a little verismilitude into the proceedings is met with such venom.

              The truth hurts, doesn’t it, Andy?

            1. The article states

              As you can see, the number of honeybee colonies has actually risen since 2006, from 2.4 million to 2.7 million in 2014, according to data tracked by the USDA

              So it would appear they are using the same data source as you

            2. AndyS,

              This also from the Washington Post:


              If its any comfort to you, the folk at Forbes magazine agree with your link, which happens to be diametrically opposite to the views of the USDA entomologists, but heck what would they know?

              I am no bee expert, but a cursory look at the data suggests that while beekeepers are working over time to up the number of colonies, the honey produced per colony is dropping significantly (not mentioned in your link). This either means that the bees are slacking off in their daily pollen gathering chores, or there is an off chance they might be drastically dropping off in numbers.

              There are some folk who are very keen to give the impression there is no bee die off, e.g. those in the lucrative pesticide industry, and so any information that might threaten their income, they will do their best to try and obfuscate. Who would have thought that this sort of thing could happen in the name of capitalism?

    1. Yes, the Hansen paper; just separating the sentences in the usual breathless abstract is thought provoking. For Example:

      “Our climate model exposes amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean that slow Antarctic bottom water formation and increase ocean temperature near ice shelf grounding lines, while cooling the surface ocean and increasing sea ice cover and water column stability.”

      The general conclusion many of us have worked out for ourselves just on the evidence of warming todate and a touch of paleontology. I have been wondering if there are two types of climate scientists: those who want to appear respectable enough to nudge along the political process so pay lip service at least to the 2° narrative, and those who prefer to avoid that contamination – Hansen for example.

      I recall Eric Rignot, one of the many co-authors of this paper remarking last year that there was a period of 400 years during the climb out of the last ice age where sea level rose one meter every 20 years.

      There was of course a lot more ice around and the evidence as to cause appears to have melted away but the climate forcing applied over that time was small compared to the climate forcing we have set in place.

  13. It’s becoming clear that the Key government is one of climate denial. Wearing a green hat and and making environmental statements is not going to convince anyone at the UN and our partners are all heavy polluters. We are going the wrong way.

    1. Nothing could be plainer Bob. An incident 40 years ago alerted me to the tendancy of conservatives to substitute gestures for action that might require them to change – it’s their nature. There’s a small conservative in each of us just to help them avoid issues. When it comes to actually doing something effective this built in blindness means they do not know of themselves what to do. I like to remember that the word responsible actually consists of two words.

      1. I have bought a more fuel efficient car, I work from home, and we are planning to abandon our Christchurch seaside property.

        Is there anything else you’d like me to do?

        1. That’s a good start.
          Now you could lobby our government to embrace significant CO2 reduction targets and setting an example for the world rather than being a drag anchor.
          You could also lobby for a rising rate of solar and wind energy and a rise in R&D efforts towards energy storage technology, or towards NH3 fuel technology. All these are measures we will need to embrace going forward.

          1. Generally speaking I don’t respond to people who use “going forward” but I’ll make an exception in this case.

            Please tell me why I should lobby the government to increase wind and solar energy when we have a completely fine hydro-electric scheme that provides upwards of 70-80% of our electricity?

            Why should I lobby for technologies that are failing financially around the world, pushing up the cost of energy for consumers, de-stabilising grids, causing health issues in humans, creating a huge toxic waste issue both in construction and disposal?.

            1. “Why should I lobby for technologies that are failing financially around the world, …..” That Andy is your personal view and not corroborated by the facts.

              What “financial failure” really means with regards to Energy supply will become evident once the catastrophic cost of rising CO2 in our atmosphere at the extent we have and are still doing will come bearing down on humanity.

            2. AndyS is right for once:

              Why should I lobby for technologies that are failing financially around the world, pushing up the cost of energy for consumers, de-stabilising grids, causing health issues in humans, creating a huge toxic waste issue both in construction and disposal?.

              No one in their right mind should lobby for the fossil fuel industry, I assume that is what you are referring to. I should like to add manipulating prices to that list since one of the major electricity providers in my area (coal fired) has just been found guilty of such an offense. Yes Andy, these fossil fuel companies are evil and we shouldn’t be lobbying on their behalf.


            3. If they are evil, why are you still using their products?

              Why does Hillary Clinton get on a private jet after going to a climate meeting?

              How do you make windmills and solar panels without fossil fuels?

              Just a few questions…

            4. Besides, you have raised a strawman. I am not lobbying for any industry.

              Why would I lobby for the solar PV industry when I can pop down the local hardware store and buy them off the shelf?

            5. Poor andyS he doesn’t understand how his big business friends work. In one word MONOPOLY, a monopoly which is held in place with the help of paid off politicians. No wonder small business is struggling these days.

  14. As we get more information about the ice shelves and sea level rise it becomes clear that the models were not designed for the speed of change. The only solution is for informed scientists to make an informed estimate of the future. This is what Hanson has done. He is pushing the margins of science but somebody has to heighten awareness and give more conservative scientists the lead.

  15. Thomas. There must be a good case for sueing a company like Exxon who understands the full risks of climate change and yet continues to fund outfits like the Heartland Institute to spread misinformation. Unlikely in the USA I know but somebody will have a go and that would give them a fright.

      1. Andy, for once a precinct comment of yours that I would find agreeable: “…It [Suing] might become the rage in NZ too if the TPP goes ahead”

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