At the end of last year, there were all sorts of media reports covering the UN’s 21st annual climate conference in Paris. Some of these were sensationalism and some were more real.

The conference again had the near-on impossible goal of producing a legally enforceable treaty, binding all of the 194 countries to individual targets to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.

I am no scientist but the thought of the world warming by more than 2°C this century does exercise the mind regardless of your views on the veracity or otherwise of the science.

Often in our role as business advisors we look to where we can make the most meaningful and value adding change for our clients. Surely this is what must be done when addressing GHG emissions.

It is fairly obvious from the table below where the proverbial Green House elephants reside. Even more so when I read in the New York Times recently that, for more than a decade, China has been burning more coal than previously disclosed. And not just a little more coal, but a lot more coal, in fact 17% more coal annually than previous reports suggested which translates to more carbon dioxide emissions than the whole German economy emits from fossil fuels.

This is not an attack on China but just reflection on the reality of the situation. In fact China is taking serious steps by imposing coal tariffs and with the movement towards a more service - and consumption-based economy, may well cap their carbon emissions well before the 2030 goal pledged by Beijing.

Our 0.1% contribution (ranking 78) is merely a tick on the elephant’s toe. We could choose to aggressively target a significant reduction of our GHG emissions particularly in agriculture which contributes 50% of our total emissions. Sadly this would not make one tiny dot of difference to the planet’s chances of survival. The impact on all NZ citizens from such a hit to the economy would be very material however. I am therefore reasonably confident that the Government’s review of the emissions trading scheme due early this year will not be extreme.

We do of course have to do our bit and will continue to do so. We have brilliant scientists looking to find ways to mitigate methane release from our farming stock and hopefully we have been able to use our excellent diplomacy skills to help facilitate a meaningful agreement acceptable to the biggest elephants in the room.

RankCountryMtCO2e% of totalCumulative
Country MtCO2e % of total Cumulative  
  World 47,598.55 100.0%  
1 China 10,684.29 22.4% 22.4%
2 United States 5,822.87 12.2% 34.7%
3 India 2,887.08 6.1% 40.7%
4 Russian Federation 2,254.47 4.7% 45.5%
5 Indonesia 1,981.00 4.2% 49.6%
6 Brazil 1,823.15 3.8% 53.5%
7 Japan 1,207.30 2.5% 56.0%
8 Canada 856.28 1.8% 57.8%
9 Germany 810.25 1.7% 59.5%
10 Mexico 748.91 1.6% 61.1%
78 New Zealand 58.47 0.1%  

Tim Dunn
Advisory Services
Email: tim.dunn@ph.co.nz
DDI: 474-9705