Climate change: Which regions are reducing their emissions, and which aren't?

New Zealand only managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 1 percent between 2007 and 2018, new data shows.

The deep south is largely to blame, with Canterbury, Otago, Tasman/Nelson and Southland increasing their emissions, while every North Island region reduced theirs - with the exception of Bay of Plenty.

"Industrial emissions, from either primary industries, goods-producing industries, or service industries, can be affected by a number of factors, such as structural changes to the local economy, changes in technology, or efficiency gains," said Stats NZ environmental-economic accounts manager Stephen Oakley.

"This is the first comprehensive picture we have been able to develop to show where emissions are being produced in New Zealand and which regions are driving the changes in emissions."

Auckland - which contributes most to the New Zealand economy of any region - was only the third-highest emitter, and had the biggest fall in emissions over the years covered. Wellington - the second-biggest local economy in the country - was the ninth-highest emitter. 

"This demonstrates that regions with higher levels of economic activity don't always have higher emissions," said Oakley.

Auckland's reduction of 955 kilotonnes (kt) a year was closely followed by Taranaki (707kt), Northland (545kt) and Waikato (272kt). 

Canterbury led the charge in the other direction, increasing its emissions by 1175kt a year. Bay of Plenty came in second, up 356kt, followed by Southland (335kt) and Otago (333kt). 

"While some regions reduced their emissions, this was largely offset by increased emissions in other regions," said Oakley. "Overall, this resulted in a reduction of just over 1 percent in New Zealand's total greenhouse gas emissions between 2007 and 2018."

New Zealand's population has grown about 18 percent in that time, so our per capita emissions have dropped. This is backed up by data from the World Bank, which shows per capita emissions dropping in the past two decades, since peaking in 2001. 

Overall net emissions peaked a few years later in 2006, according to Stats NZ data. 

The overall biggest emitter in 2018 was Waikato, a big farming region.

"Service industries produce fewer emissions per unit of GDP than primary and goods-producing industries meaning they are less emissions intensive," Stats NZ said.

"Service industries include wholesale trade; retail trade; transport, postal, and warehousing; government and defence; and health care and social assistance. Conversely, primary industries, such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining, generally have higher emissions intensities."

Every region's biggest emitter were primary industries except in Auckland, where it was goods-producing industries - manufacturing, electricity, gas, water, and waste services and construction. Auckland's big drop was driven by a massive fall in emissions in goods-producing industries, but offset slightly by a rise in service industry and household emissions. 

"The rise in Auckland's household emissions is largely due to its growing population, leading to increased car emissions, and increased fuel use," said Oakley.

The massive rises in Canterbury and Otago were driven by expanding cattle numbers.

Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury accounted for almost half of all emissions between them. Sparsely populated Marlborough, Tasman/Nelson, West Coast and Gisborne had the least. 

Auckland generated the most carbon dioxide, while Canterbury produced the most methane - a far bigger driver of climate change in the short-term - and nitrous oxide.

Southland's emissions were eight times higher per capita than in Auckland and Wellington. 

"The new data allows regions to better understand the emissions intensity of their economies," said Oakley.

"It will also be of interest as regions look to reduce their emissions while managing economic outcomes, thereby transitioning to a lower-emissions economy."

The Government has a goal of New Zealand being carbon-neutral by 2050.