Climate Change Minister James Shaw admits New Zealand needs fewer cows to meet emissions targets

Thank you, lockdown - a greenhouse gas stocktake released on Tuesday shows staying home helped reduce our carbon emissions.

But overall, the report is a black mark against New Zealand, because our gross or total emissions have increased 21 percent since 1990.

The latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory says COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 cut emissions by 3 percent. 

"Having a global pandemic is not the way to reduce emissions," Climate Change Minister James Shaw said on Tuesday. 

Broken down, 4 percent of our overall emissions are from waste. This has actually decreased since 1990 because we're better at managing landfills.

An additional 6 percent is from electricity, another 6 percent from industrial processes, and 17 percent is from what's categorised as 'other energy'. Combined with transport - which makes up 17 per cent - 'energy emissions' account for almost 40 percent.

The rest - half of all our emissions - is entirely made up of agriculture.

"I think the sector's doing a good job at ensuring we're producing food at the lowest footprint anywhere in the world," says Andrew Hoggard from Federated Farmers. 

The Climate Change Minister is finally admitting that to cut emissions we need to cull the herd - we need to have fewer cows.

"At the moment yes, there are no technologies that reduce emissions at the moment which don't involve deintensifying," Shaw said.

And we need to change what's on our dinner plates. The heavy-hitting Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we all need to eat less meat.

Are our politicians on board?

"As to which days are meat free or meat days, I'm not that organised to do that," said National leader Christopher Luxon. 

"Whatever My Food Bag delivers that week is what I would say," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

"Does fish count?" said ACT leader David Seymour. 

"I would call myself a reducetarian," added Shaw. 

New Zealand delegates at the IPCC panel also appear to be reducetarians, arguing to reduce all references in its summary to "plant-based diets" and instead use the term "healthy diets".

The Climate Change Minister is calling them in for a 'please explain'.

"On Saturday I sent out a note asking what their explanation was," Shaw said. 

With the release of this report and another one on Thursday, the Government is making its case to spend up large on climate, showing us how doomed we are and then splashing billions of dollars at Budget time next month.