Welcome to Environmental Indicators Quarterly, the Ministry for the Environment’s e-newsletter linking you to information on what’s happening in the realm of environmental reporting. We hope you find this newsletter useful and informative. We welcome your ideas, feedback and suggestions – please contact us at email@example.com.
The Ministry for the Environment regularly produces report cards that update data for the core set of national environmental indicators. Three snapshot report cards have been released in recent months.
On 15 April 2011, the Ministry for the Environment released the New Zealand Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2011 (the Inventory) and an accompanying snapshot report card. The Inventory presents the latest official estimate of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2009.
Total emissions in 2009 were 70.6 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e), 19.4 per cent higher than they were in 1990. Between 2008 and 2009, New Zealand's total greenhouse gas emissions decreased 2.3 Mt CO2-e (3.1 per cent). This decrease was mainly due to higher rainfall into hydro-electric storage lakes, increased electricity generated from geothermal and wind, a reduction in transport emissions due to the economic downturn, and a reduction in nitrogen fertiliser use due to the continuing effects of drought in 2008 and 2009.
This year a New Zealand-specific emission factor for estimating nitrous oxide emissions from cattle, sheep and deer dung was introduced to the calculation of agricultural soil emissions. Previously, one New Zealand-specific emission factor was used for dung and urine emissions from these species. New research showed that N2O emissions from dung are substantially lower than emissions from urine. The introduction of the dung emission factor has reduced total emissions by 1.6 Mt CO2-e in 1990 and 1.5 Mt CO2-e in 2008.
Although New Zealand has a high average rainfall, not all of this water is in the right place at the right time, and some areas experience a surplus or a shortage of water. Drier parts of the country have the highest demand for water.
The latest freshwater demand report card shows that there were more than 20,500 resource consents for taking fresh water in 2010. Two-thirds of consents were from groundwater sources. However, the volume of water allocated from surface water sources was four times higher than from groundwater sources. Total maximum weekly allocation has increased by a third since 1999.
In 2010, three-quarters of New Zealand's freshwater consents were allocated for irrigation. The total consented irrigated area in 2010 was over 1 million hectares, which is approximately 4 per cent of the total land area of New Zealand. The majority of consumptive (ie, water not returned to source) weekly allocations were for irrigation (46 per cent) and hydro generation (41 per cent).
If all the consumptive water consents in 2010 are added together the total allocation of water in New Zealand was 27 billion m3. This is equivalent to almost half the volume of Lake Taupo. Note that in most cases, consent holders do not use the full volume of water they are allocated under the consent – it is estimated that, on average, 65 per cent of the maximum consented volume is abstracted. View the freshwater demand report card. The report card also looks at regional variations in freshwater demand.
The Ministry for the Environment has released a web-based report card updating one of the fishing activity indicators, fish stocks under the quota management system (QMS). This indicator measures total commercial fish catch and fish stock status.
In the 2009 fishing year, 424,693 tonnes of fish were caught commercially, with hoki making up the largest proportion. Overall, commercial fish catch has reduced in recent years through a combination of active management to reduce catches in some stocks and actual declines in abundance of others.
In 2010, of the 633 stocks in the QMS, there was sufficient information to assess stock status relative to management targets for 119 stocks. These 119 stocks account for two-thirds of the total landings by weight and value. Of these 119 stocks, 69 per cent were considered to be at or above the management target and 31 per cent were considered to be below the target.
For the first time, we reported against the stock status categories of the new Harvest Strategy Standard for New Zealand Fisheries. According to the new standard, 13 per cent of the 105 fish stocks assessed were considered to be depleted in 2010. This is an improvement from 2009, when 19 per cent of the 95 fish stocks assessed were considered depleted.
In 2010, 6 per cent of the 146 fish stocks assessed were considered to be collapsed. This is a small change from 2009, when 6 per cent of the 132 fish stocks assessed were considered to be collapsed.
View the fish stocks report card.
The Ministry for the Environment is currently updating data and preparing report cards for solid waste disposal, air quality (PM10), and recreational freshwater and coastal water quality. These reports cards are all scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2011.
The river water quality indicator update scheduled for this year will be delayed until 2012, when we intend to provide a single index figure for river water quality, in addition to reporting the underlying variables.
A report tracking New Zealand’s economic performance was jointly published on 24 February 2011 by the Ministry of Economic Development, the Treasury and Statistics New Zealand. Economic Development Indicators 2011 updates and expands on previous reports, published in 2003, 2005, and 2007. The indicators span seven topics including well-being and prosperity; drivers of income growth; composition of the New Zealand economy; and determinants of productivity growth. The report examines New Zealand’s economic performance relative to the OECD and how this has changed over time.
Although the report’s primary focus is on economic indicators, a small number of key well-being and environmental indicators are included. Environmental indicators reported include:
To view the report go to: www.med.govt.nz/templates/ContentTopicSummary____45708.aspx.
Statistics New Zealand released Key Findings on New Zealand’s Progress Using a Sustainable Development Approach: 2010 on 23 February. This publication updates 13 of the 16 key indicators first published in their July 2009 publication Key Findings on New Zealand’s Progress Using a Sustainable Development Approach: 2008.
The indicators selected provide information about whether we as a country are meeting our current needs, how fairly our resources are distributed, how efficiently we are using our resources, and what impact our current actions may have on the future availability of those resources. The indicators combine data from a number of existing official sources produced by a range of government agencies, including the Ministry for the Environment.
Most time series go back more than 20 years, and this report examines the indicators’ trends over that time. Four of the updated indicators relate to the environment: net greenhouse gas emissions, nitrogen in rivers and streams, greenhouse gas intensity of the economy, and energy intensity of the economy.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) are currently working on 'green growth' initiatives.
The OECD defines green growth as “promoting economic growth and development while reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, minimising waste and inefficient use of natural resources, and maintaining biodiversity. It means making investment in the environment a driver for economic growth and development. Green growth also means improving health and job prospects for populations and strengthening energy security through less dependence on fossil fuels.”
In 2009, Ministers representing OECD governments adopted the Declaration on Green Growth (PDF, 53 KB) and asked the OECD to develop a Green Growth Strategy. The Strategy aims to help governments design and implement policies that can shift economies onto more resource-efficient development paths.
The OECD released a suite of green growth reports on 25 May:
UNEP launched the Green Economy Initiative (GEI) in 2008. It aims to assist governments to shape and focus policies, investments and spending towards a range of green sectors (eg, clean technologies, industry, renewable energies, water services, transport, waste management, green buildings, and sustainable agriculture and forests). UNEP’s working definition of a green economy is “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.”
The GEI consists of three main activities: producing a Green Economy Report and related research materials; providing advisory services on ways to move towards a green economy in specific countries; and engaging a wide range of research, non-governmental organisations, business and UN partners in implementing the GEI.
The Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS) is a programme of work to measure and monitor the carbon stocks of New Zealand’s forests and soils. This information is required for New Zealand’s reporting requirements under the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The LUCAS programme is currently collecting, analysing and managing the data required to meet New Zealand’s reporting requirements out to the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. On the horizon is the remeasurement of the post-1989 forest plot network. This work will be carried out over the next two winters. These ground-based plot measurements will be supplemented with data gathered from LiDAR measurements.
The land-use mapping programme is continuing to collect satellite imagery throughout the commitment period to enable land-use change to be determined for both annual and end of period reporting. SPOTMaps satellite imagery was acquired during 2008 and 2009, providing high resolution natural colour imagery of New Zealand. It represents the highest resolution national data set ever acquired over New Zealand.
The Freshwater Ecosystems of New Zealand (FENZ) geo-database provides a consistent, national representation of the biodiversity values and pressures on New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and wetlands. FENZ is the result of several years work by central and local government agencies and Crown research institutes, led by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
FENZ consists of a large set of spatial data layers and supporting information on New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, and is designed as a support tool for informed decision-making. FENZ objectively maps and quantifies various aspects of New Zealand's freshwater, providing:
View examples of how FENZ is already being used by DOC and other agencies in the management of freshwater resources.
FENZ requires specialist GIS knowledge for its technical operation and biodiversity knowledge for understanding the content. Because of FENZ’s complexity, DOC is providing advice, briefings and training (where possible) to ensure users understand its strengths, limitations and appropriate applications. If you would like more information about FENZ, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kuratau River, Taupo
A team of international expert reviewers (ERT) from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat visited New Zealand in September last year to review our 2010 greenhouse gas inventory submission and New Zealand’s Fifth National Communication.
The review report of the inventory submission was released by the UNFCCC Secretariat on 1 April 2011. The ERT’s findings were very positive. They highlighted a few issues for improvement and these are being worked through by the cross-Government inventory team. The latest New Zealand inventory, submitted in April 2011 (see above), will be reviewed in September and a review report released by mid-2012.
The in-depth review report on New Zealand’s 5th National Communication was released by the UNFCCC Secretariat on 18 February 2011. The review team stated that New Zealand’s Fifth National Communication mostly complied with the reporting guidelines for national communications. The team also stated that the Fifth National Communication was generally complete, transparent and timely.
National Communication reports provide information on all of a country’s action on climate change in response to commitments under the Framework Convention. They cover policies and measures for mitigation, adaptation and vulnerability assessment, financial and technical support for developing countries, research and systematic observation, education, training and public awareness activities, and provide a summary of inventory and demographic information.
At the Cancun climate negotiations in December 2010, developed and developing countries agreed to produce biennial update reports at 2-yearly intervals between National Communications (which are usually produced by developed countries every four years). While the details of what these reports will include are still being worked out, they should provide more up-to-date information on emission trends and policies around the world.