'Pollution pushing NZ to environmental limits'

Indo Asian News Service

Wellington, March 21 (IANS) Rising greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution are pushing New Zealand to its environmental limits, according to an international report out Tuesday.

The report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said New Zealanders enjoyed a high environmental quality of life and access to pristine wilderness, Xinhua news agency reported.

"However, New Zealand's growth model, based largely on exploiting natural resources, is starting to show its environmental limits with increasing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution," said a statement from OECD Environment Director Simon Upton.

The country only accounted for a tiny share of global emissions, but the OECD's third Environmental Performance Review of New Zealand found that intensive dairy farming, road transport and industry had pushed up gross greenhouse gas emissions by 23 per cent since 1990.

Despite generating 80 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, New Zealand had the second-highest level of emissions per unit of gross domestic product unit in the OECD and the fifth-highest emissions per capita.

"Having largely decarbonised its power generation, New Zealand needs to ensure its climate policies are effective in curbing emissions in all sectors, notably transport and agriculture," said Upton, a former New Zealand Environment Minister.

"This means strengthening the Emissions Trading Scheme and ensuring sectoral policies are aligned with the need for a low emissions transition."

The report suggested incorporating emissions from agriculture, which accounts for 49 per cent of emissions - the highest share in the OECD - into the Emissions Trading Scheme, or developing alternative measures to counter the pressures of farming.

Growth in intensive dairy production had increased the level of nitrogen in soil, surface water and groundwater.

Car ownership in cities was high and many vehicles were old and emissions-intensive.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the report highlighted New Zealand's green credentials as well as the challenges it faced.

The opposition Green Party said the report highlighted how New Zealand was on course to miss its climate targets set in the Paris agreement on climate change.