Lord of the Rings country trades on its natural beauty, but emissions have risen 22% since it signed up to Kyoto
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 12 November 2009
A surprising number of countries have succeeded in raising their emissions from 1990 levels despite signing up to reduce them. They include a bundle of countries in the European Union, which collectively agreed to let some nations increase their emissions while others (mainly Britain and Germany) cut theirs. Step forward Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece — all with emissions up by more than a quarter.
Then there are the US and Australia, which both reneged on the protocol after signing it. And Canada, which never reneged but still has emissions up by a quarter (worse than the US) and shows no sign of contrition or of being called to account by the other signatories.
But my prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community goes to New Zealand, a country that sells itself round the world as “clean and green”.
New Zealand secured a generous Kyoto target, which simply required it not to increase its emissions between 1990 and 2010. But the latest UN statistics show its emissions of greenhouse gases up by 22%, or a whopping 39% if you look at emissions from fuel burning alone.
Some countries with big emissions growth started from a low figure in 1990. Arguably, they were playing catchup. There is no such excuse for New Zealand. Its emissions started high and went higher.
They are today 60% higher than those of Britain, per head of population. Among industrialised nations, they are only exceeded by Canada, the US, Australia and Luxembourg. In recent years a lot of Brits have headed for Christchurch and Wellington in the hope of a green life in a country where they filmed the Lord of the Rings. But it’s a green mirage.
To rub our noses in it, last year New Zealand signed up to the UN’s Climate Neutral Network, a list of nations that are “laying out strategies to become carbon neutral“.
But if you read the small print of what New Zealand has actually promised, it is a measly 50% in emissions by 2050 – something even the US can trump.
Where do all these emissions come from? New Zealand turns out to be mining ever more filthy brown coal to burn in its power stations. It has the world’s third highest rate of car ownership. And, with more cows than people, the country’s increasingly intensive agricultural sector is responsible for approaching half the greenhouse gas emissions.