New Zealand announces its biggest emissions reduction project in history

Eliminating coal from the Glenbrook Steel Plant’s energy mix will reduce emissions by 1%, or the equivalent of removing 300,000 cars from the road.

The country’s primary steel plant will switch from coal to renewable electricity as part of New Zealand’s greatest emissions reduction programme ever, which the government claims would have the same environmental impact as removing 300,000 cars off the road.

To recycle scrap steel at the Glenbrook Steel Plant, the government would spend $140 million reducing the amount of coal used there and installing an electric furnace in its place. The factory will pay $160 million towards the project’s expenses.

Currently, the steel industry is responsible for 2% of all emissions in New Zealand due to the extensive coal burning required to transform iron-rich sands into steel products. Instead, a $300 million electric-powered arc furnace will be installed as part of the new project to melt down scrap steel. The national grid of New Zealand, which is predominantly run by wind, hydro, and geothermal energy, will supply that electricity using renewable energy.

The initiative “dwarfs anything we have done to date,” according to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

This project’s size, according to him, “shows how serious the government is about reducing New Zealand’s emissions as quickly as possible.” “On its own, it will reduce 1% of the nation’s annual emissions.”

According to the government, the initiative will cut New Zealand’s annual emissions by 800,000 tonnes. That would be the same as taking Christchurch, one of the biggest cities in New Zealand, off the road entirely.

According to Megan Woods, minister of energy and resources, “to understand the scale of this project, it reduces more emissions on its own than all the other 66 [government-funded emissions-reduction] projects we have approved to date.” By 2026–2027, the electric furnace is expected to be operational.

Prof. James Renwick of Victoria University, a climate change expert, told the Guardian that the initiative was “very significant” and “big news” for the nation’s emissions targets. “When it comes into play,” he said, “it will be the biggest single reduction in national emissions.” Renwick continued, saying there was still “more work to do”.

“1% of national emissions is great, but we need to reduce 100%,” he stated. “A lot more work needs to be done,”

The proposal “will put New Zealand in a much better position to meet its climate target of net zero carbon by 2050,” according to climate minister James Shaw.

Instead of purchasing offsets for tree-planting to attain net zero, the idea represents a huge step towards New Zealand genuinely decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions.

The country’s strong reliance on planting trees to offset carbon emissions, the Climate Commission said in April, threatened to derailed its aspirational aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Experts have cautioned that achieving a net decrease in emissions primarily through planting trees is impossible to sustain in the long run since woods are susceptible to fire or severe weather and do not permanently store carbon.

New Zealand contributes little overall to global emissions, but its per-capita gross emissions are substantial. According to research from 2018, New Zealanders emit more greenhouse gases per person than Britons do, or 16.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide’s worth of thermal energy. The nation has also had one of the worst records in the world for rising pollution levels.

Renwick remarked, “We can’t plant our way out of the climate change challenge. Instead of concentrating on net carbon reductions, we should.

According to Shaw, the agreement will contribute 5.3% of the emissions reductions required under New Zealand’s second carbon budget, which covers the years 2026-2030, and 3.4% of the emissions reductions required under the third emissions budget, which covers the years 2031–2035.

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