New Zealand has fewer low-cost options to reduce emissions compared with most other developed countries, with around 80% of electricity generated from renewable energy, a growing and dispersed population, and around half of our emissions coming from agriculture.
New Zealand’s emissions profile is unusual among developed countries. For many of those countries, the agricultural sector constitutes only a small proportion of emissions, on average around 12%. Furthermore, CO2 makes up about 80% of most developed countries’ emissions. Due to the high level of agricultural production in New Zealand, most of it for export, our emissions profile is quite different.
In New Zealand, methane and nitrous oxide (largely from agriculture) comprise around half of total emissions, while the other half of total emissions consists of carbon dioxide.
In the absence of technological options to reduce agricultural emissions significantly, New Zealand works to improve the efficiency of agriculture production. This results in a decreasing intensity of emissions from the agriculture sector.
When considering atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, reducing agriculture emissions from methane and nitrous oxide is important but CO2 presents a greater challenge in the long term because it persists in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Methane and nitrous oxide have a strong warming effect in the short term, but do not persist in the atmosphere.