The Ministry for the Environment released the latest NZ Inventory of Greenhouse gases, or as it is now being called by the Ministry “Te Tarangi Haurehu Kati Mahana a Aotearoa” They do kindly still put the English title in small print underneath, but I imagine that will be dropped in a year or two
The Ministry’s media release stated that our gross greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 21% since 1990 and that a major contributor was methane from an increase in dairy cattle numbers.
The 21% increase amounts to 13,581 kt CO2e, but livestock emissions of methane have only increased by 5.4 % or 1481.1 kt CO2-e in that time, which is a little over 10% of the increase. This is hardly a major contributor to the increase especially when compared to energy emissions contributing 56 percent of the increase thanks to a whopping 76.1 percent increase in transport emissions.
The mistake the Ministry has made is to look at the increase in dairy cattle emissions without considering that most (over 80%) of this increase has been offset by reductions in sheep and beef cattle emissions. When a farm converts from sheep to dairy farming, the emissions from the dairy farm do not contribute to an increase in emissions unless they emit more than was emitted by the sheep. The Ministry for the Environment is a very political Government department and has either forgotten it’s supposed to be neutral and objective and was wanting to continue the Government narrative that methane and dairy are our big problems here, or it is incompetent, and it has just forgotten about the sheep or the cattle that were on the dairy farm originally. Either way the Ministry does farming and New Zealand a disservice by focusing on methane and needs to be either more objective or more accurate, or both, in its analysis and take in to account all factors when looking at sector emissions, otherwise it can find itself drawing the wrong conclusions, as it has done in this case.
I did some fact checking and these are the numbers. Note the figures are all in discredited CO2 equivalents, and we all know now they should not be used to compare emissions of different gases, but they can be used when comparing like for like as I am doing here.
Gross emissions since 1990 have increased by 13,581kt CO2e
Dairy emissions have increased by 7887.3 kt CO2e
Beef emissions have increased by 30.8 kt CO2e
Sheep emissions have decreased by 6286.7 kt CO2e
The net increase of 1631.4 kt CO2e was based on 2019 data and has since reduced to a 1481.1kt CO2e net increase.
This cannot reasonably be described by an honest objective Ministry as a “major contributor”
What is more this increase occurred nearly 20 years ago.
The 2005 inventory of greenhouse gases reports an increase in ruminant methane emissions since 1990 of 2113.3 kt CO2e which was a 9.7% increase. The increase over 1990 is now only 1481 kt CO2e which was less than it was in 2005. Ruminant methane emissions were 30,673kt CO2e in 2001 and 30,617 kt CO2 e in 2019. They have decreased and increased since that time but by and large are stable, so don’t cause any warming anyway.
The other major contributor the Ministry listed was transport emissions which have gone up a whopping 76% since 1990 despite being priced in the ETS. Anyone who claims pricing emissions will reduce them is ignoring the facts that the ones that are priced (transport) have increased way more than those which have not (methane).
Energy emissions contributed 56% of the 21% increase in emissions with transport the biggest sector and that should have been the media focus when reporting the release of the Inventory, but instead they focused on methane from livestock.
To put some perspective on things a sector called Industrial Process has increased emissions by 1086.48 kt CO2e since 1990. IPPU as it is known are the non energy related emissions in manufacturing and refrigeration etc. Compare 1086.48kt CO2e from IPPU and the 1481.1 kt CO2e from methane and there is not that much difference so why has no one ever heard of IPPU emissions, and everyone has heard of methane?
For more perspective in the one year from 2019 to 2020 the increase in coal and gas used to produce electricity over the year before, generated an extra 401kt CO2e of emissions. Livestock methane emissions have increased by 1481 kt CO2e in 30 years and the increase in coal and gas emissions in just 1 year were 401kt CO2e. That was two years ago, and we all know Jacinda loves burning coal and they are burning even more now, so quite possibly the emissions from just the increase in coal that Jacinda burns in 3 years over previous levels could be half the increase in ruminant methane emissions over 30 years. That’s where the media focus should be, but of course these methane emissions which have hardly increased at all and don’t cause warming anyway are for more of a problem in their minds than Jacinda’s coal burning.
I did an interview with Jamie MacKay on the Country to try and put some perspective on it https://www.iheart.com/podcast/53-the-country-28628176/episode/the-country-130422-robin-grieve-talks-95506219/