It was such big news when the British High Commissioner to New Zealand Laura Clarke called New Zealand out on its environmental record.
“There is a gap … between ambition and reality,” Mrs Clarke said. “You have Scandinavian ambitions in terms of quality of life and public services, but a US attitude to tax. The brand 100% Pure New Zealand lulled many into a false sense of security when the environmental reality is far more challenging.”
Personally, my first reaction upon reading Mrs Clarke's statement was that she must have her facts wrong. I mean, who can trust politicians at all these days, right? They sensationalise and lie for their own agendas. This must be no different.
The problem, however, is that she is right. New Zealand had a net 57.16% increase in carbon emissions between 1990–2018. Proportionally, that is the 2nd greatest increase in greenhouse emissions out of any industrialised nations.
So what’s happened? Why haven’t we as a country been able to do as we have been saying? In fact, in the land of 100% pure, why haven’t we done much at all?
Within the last few days (likely in response to Mrs Clarke’s remarks) New Zealand has declared a climate emergency, re-affirmed its goal for 100% renewable energy by 2030 and reignited it's on again off again flirtation with the idea of regulating vehicles. All ‘positive’ steps but again, all talk.
Even taking the optimists view on the governments response to Mrs Clarke's tongue lashing, these goals (if achieved) still only address at most 25% of our total emissions. They also only address CO2. Roughly 50% of New Zealand's carbon emissions are methane, which has 28 times the warming effects of CO2. So, why isn’t this the government's focus?
Even a tiny reduction in methane will have a far bigger proportional impact on New Zealand global warming contributions than a corresponding reduction in CO2. This should be an EASY target for any government; the lowest of low hanging fruit; the quickest of wins. But, methane is NEVER talked about, and its certainly not a part of any major government climate initiative. Why is that?
My guess? It has something to do with the big dairy cow-shaped elephant in the room…