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Setting sail towards low-carbon construction

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World Cement,

George Agriogiannis, Holcim Australia and New Zealand, describes the steps taken in New Zealand to realise a functional low-carbon construction industry using cement.

New Zealand is a young island nation. It was the last significant land mass outside the Arctic and Antarctic to be settled permanently by humans when Polynesian ancestors of the Maori arrived from East Polynesia around 800 years ago. Sailing remains part of the national identity. Auckland is known as the ‘City of Sails’ with one of the world’s highest boat ownership rates and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron poised to defend the America’s Cup in 2024.

New Zealand is famed the world over for its clean, green reputation and breath-taking scenery. It is a reputation that opens markets for its exports, draws in millions of tourists, employs many thousands of people, and is the lifeline of the economy. But the environmental impacts of agriculture and increasing urbanisation have seen the OECD urge the New Zealand government to come up with a long-term vision to transition to a greener, low-carbon economy.

A unique carbon footprint

New Zealand has a unique carbon emissions profile where agriculture accounts for a far greater share of emissions than any other OECD country and reflects the importance of the sector to its economy. Exports of agricultural products were worth NZ$47 billion in 2020, or almost 80% of the country’s total exported goods. The Ministry for the Environment reported that agriculture contributed 48.1% of total emissions, energy (including transport) 41.6%, industry 6.2%, and waste 4.0%. While the country only accounts for a tiny share of global emissions, New Zealand faces unique challenges in mitigating its domestic greenhouse gas emissions. All emitting sectors need to take actions to curb their emissions with population growth and urban expansion intensifying pressures on housing, transport, waste, and water infrastructure.

New Zealand has strengthened its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Prime Minister and Environment Minister jointly announced an increased target of a 50% reduction by 2030 prior to the COP26 summit in Glasgow in 2021.

“While we are a small contributor to global emissions, as a country surrounded by oceans and an economy reliant on our land, we are not immune to the impact of climate change, it’s critical we pull our weight,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

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