Measuring, reporting and accounting for our emissions

This page has information on the emissions data we report and its purposes.

Emissions types

There are three types of emission data.

  • Gross emissions (UNFCCC reporting). Emissions from all sectors of the New Zealand economy, excluding forestry and land use emissions/removals.
  • Net emissions (UNFCCC reporting). Emissions from all sectors of the New Zealand economy, including all forestry and land use emissions/removals.
  • Net target emissions. This is what we use to measure progress towards our target. Net target emissions include all of our gross emissions, but only a subset of our forestry and land use emissions. The subset for our 2030 target is similar as for our targets for 2012 and 2020 but will modify the way in which this subset is treated to ensure that incentives for new forest planting remain but the cyclical emissions from planting and harvesting in our plantation forests is removed. These rules ensure that our approach has credibility and integrity. More detail on this can be found here [PDF, 22.5 KB].

Our targets also set out the level of greenhouse gas emissions reductions New Zealand is contributing towards international action on climate change.

UNFCCC reporting and target accounting

We use the measurements of our emissions for two different purposes:

  • to compile an inventory of all of our domestic emissions and removals which we submit annually to the UNFCCC
  • to show progress towards our targets.

For showing progress towards our targets we use the accounting guidelines of the relevant target period. The objectives of the accounting guidelines are to ensure that our targets are only being judged against factors we have control over. For example, unless they are permanently cut down, the natural growth, harvest and re-planting cycle of plantation forests that already existed in 1990 are excluded from accounting for our target.

Forestry

Forestry and other land-use emissions are included in New Zealand’s national greenhouse gas inventory under a category called ‘Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry’ (LULUCF). While under the LULUCF category we report on the changes in carbon stored in all of our land area, most of the impact from LULUCF in New Zealand is due to forests.

Accounting for forestry is complex because:

  • trees can both remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (as they grow) and then emit this to the atmosphere again (as/if they are cut down)
  • there are different rules for forests which existed before 1990 compared to those established after 1989. This distinction was created in the international accounting rules of the Kyoto Protocol (which apply until 2020) and will continue after 2020 because we have decided to use a modified version of the Kyoto rules for accounting for forestry towards our Paris target. The detailed explanation of this can be read here [PDF, 22.5 KB].

Carbon budgets

New Zealand uses a multi-year ‘carbon budget’ approach to setting and measuring progress towards our targets. This means that progress towards our target is not measured by looking at emissions in a single year (for example 2012, 2020 or 2030) but includes a comparison of emissions in all the years of each target period (2008-12, 2013-20 and 2021-30). This approach was required by countries that took a target under the Kyoto Protocol and has been used by New Zealand for all subsequent targets as well.

Gross-net accounting

Accounting for New Zealand’s targets (and those of other developed country signatories to the Kyoto Protocol) is often described as ‘gross-net accounting’. This is because the carbon budget is calculated in relation to historic gross emissions but this budget is then compared to our net target emissions.

Using this approach ensures that the measurement of progress towards our target only considers those factors that we have control over. If our national targets were mistakenly assessed using net emissions from our UNFCCC reporting, our targets would appear much less ambitious than they actually are because net emissions for UNFCCC reporting are much lower than the net target emissions.

Reviewed:
10/04/19