The problem with statistics is that once a false or misleading one enters the media, it's almost impossible to get rid of. So we have the Herald on Sunday reporting in a story on Contact Energy's renewable plans that
The reality is that since Labour took office in 1999 New Zealand's emissions have grown at twice the rate of the United States, four times the rate of Japan and are even larger than Australia.
Except its not the reality. Here are the rates of growth in gross emissions compiled from the UNFCCC's online table of gross Annex I emissions:
New Zealand gross 2000 - 2004: 6.79%
United States gross 2000 - 2004: 1.31%
Japan gross 2000 - 2004: 0.72%
What about net emissions (the statistic people should use, as it is what counts under Kyoto)? Again, here are the growth rates sourced from the UNFCCC's table of net Annex I emissions:
New Zealand net 2000 - 2004: 1.01%
United States net 2000 - 2004: 1.15%
Japan net 2000 - 2004: -0.02%
New Zealand net emissions 2004: 50.606 MTCO2-e
Australia net emissions 2004: 533.495 MTCO2-e
(I have used 2000 as the base year as the Labour government took office in December 1999).
As can be seen, the Herald's "statistics" don't match reality, no matter which way you slice them (and the gross emissions figures are significantly worse than they suggest). I've also done an analysis using the 1999 - 2003 figures from the UNFCCC's compilation of Key GHG Data [PDF], and it doesn't work for them either. Meanwhile, the Herald's final claim (that New Zealand's emissions are now "even larger than [those of] Australia") is simply insane. As with Nick Smith, you really have to ask where they get their numbers from...
Note that I am not trying to minimise either the seriousness of New Zealand's emissions growth, or the international comparisons. I think the figures above speak for themselves in painting an absolutely dismal picture of our performance over the past seven years (the figures linked here paint a worse one of our performance over the past seventeen). I would however prefer that both political parties and the media were accurate in their condemnation, rather than seemingly pulling numbers out of their arse.