Petrol and diesel cars accounted for around 11mn t of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), or about 14pc of New Zealand's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in 2019. New Zealand also imported around 300,000 light vehicles in 2019, the country's Climate Change Commission (CCC) said in its report titled Advice to government on its first three emissions budgets and directions for its emissions reduction plan 2022-2025. The CCC was created in 2019 with the passage of the zero-carbon legislation in 2019 to commit the country to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.
The CCC recommends that New Zealand adopts an emissions-standard policy for imported light vehicles to average 105g of CO2/km. This is still above the standard set by the EU of 95g of CO2/km during 2020-24, reducing by a further 15pc from 2025, or about 81g CO2/km, and declining by 37pc from 2020-24 levels from 2030 to around 60g of CO2/km.
The CCC also recommends that 5pc of the petrol and diesel that powers light vehicles in New Zealand be sourced from organic matter such as biofuels by 2035.
New Zealand is not on track to reach its target to reduce GHG emissions by 30pc from 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, according to the CCC report.
New Zealand used forests planted in the 1990s to offset its GHG emissions and meet its targets. The carbon-removal benefit of these forests is now coming to an end. Gross emissions have increased by 26pc since 1990 and New Zealand is in a position that is more difficult than it might have been if it had started developing the structures and plans it needed to lower emissions earlier, the report said.
"Our analysis shows that current government polices do not put New Zealand on track to meet the commission's recommended emissions budgets or the 2050 targets," it said. "Achieving the emissions reductions needed to get to 2050 will require our elected officials to move fast to implement a comprehensive plan," it added.
But the CCC has set a less ambitious GHG reduction target over three periods to 2035 than its draft report released earlier this year (see table below for budget emission-reduction targets).
The government has committed to taking the commission's report away and preparing an emissions-reduction plan by the end of this year, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said.
The report also recommends that by 2030, coal use in commercial and public buildings be largely eliminated with the closure of the country's sole coal-fired power plant, Genesis Energy's Huntly operations, by the mid-2020s. Gas-fired plants may be required until 2035 at least to provide firming back-up power to renewables, it said. There will be a full transition from gas, coal and diesel to generate heat in the food processing sector by 2050, it added.
"Our recommended emissions budget could see gas and oil production reduce by about 60pc by 2035 relative to 2019 compared with 40pc under current policy settings," the CCC report said. New Zealand's oil output dropped to a 14-year low of 27,000 b/d last year, down by 10pc from 30,000 b/d in 2019 and the lowest since the 23,000 b/d produced in 2006.
The CCC report implies that New Zealand's oil production will drop to 12,000 b/d by 2035 under its recommended GHG emission policies, rather than to 18,000 b/d under the current GHG reduction policies over the same period.