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New Zealand's Emissions Reduction Targets

2050 Target

To make sure that New Zealand can make a smooth transition to a low-carbon future, the Government is committed to implementing an economically sound and environmentally effective climate change policy. A part of this is a credible long-term emissions reduction target.

In March 2011, the Government notified in the New Zealand Gazette a target for a 50 per cent reduction in New Zealand greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050.

The 1990 level is based on New Zealand’s gross greenhouse gas emissions as per the agreed accounting rules of the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Convention Framework on Climate Change.

The 2050 target is based on New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions and will take into account any removals or emissions arising from afforestation or deforestation since 1990 consistent with the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Convention Framework rules on climate change.

2020 Target

In August 2009, the Government announced a 2020 target range to signal New Zealand’s commitment to comprehensive efforts to address global climate change.

New Zealand is prepared to take on a responsibility target for greenhouse gas emissions reductions of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, if there is a comprehensive global agreement. This means:

  • the global agreement sets the world on a pathway to limit temperature rise to not more than 2°C;
  • developed countries make comparable efforts to those of New Zealand;
  • advanced and major emitting developing countries take action fully commensurate with their respective capabilities;
  • there is an effective set of rules for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); and
  • there is full recourse to a broad and efficient international carbon market.

New Zealand’s 2020 target was decided following consultation with New Zealand business, farmers, environmental groups, Māori, scientists, academics and other stakeholders. The question and answers below set out the government’s rationale for setting New Zealand’s 2020 emissions target.

Public consultation prior to setting the 2020 target

Previously the Minister for Climate Change Issues held meetings about New Zealand's 2020 Emissions Target policy around the country, including meetings with the public and business and a national hui. The PowerPoint presentations given at those meetings are available below.

NZIER and Infometrics have published a report called Macroeconomic Impacts of Climate Change Policy, Impact of Assigned Amount Units and International Trading, which can assist with understanding the impacts of an emissions target on New Zealand.

NZIER has also published a report called New Zealand's 2020 emissions target negotiations: Impact on the Maori economy (PDF, 334 KB), which discusses possible impacts of future emission reduction agreements on the Maori economy.

Advice on setting New Zealand’s 2020 emissions reduction target

Below is a list of the Cabinet papers and briefing notes provided on New Zealand’s 2020 emissions reduction target.

We have withheld certain sections in light of the principles of the Official Information Act (OIA). Reasons for withholding information include:

  1. release would likely prejudice the international relations of the New Zealand Government
  2. withholding is necessary to maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the free and frank expression of opinion by, between, or to Ministers or officials in the course of their duty
  3. withholding is necessary to enable a Minister, Department or organisation holding the information to carry on negotiations (including commercials and industrial negotiations) without prejudice or disadvantage.

Sections in these documents that have been withheld for these reasons are marked as [Withheld].

Cabinet papers

Date Title PDF link
26 March 2014 Cabinet paper: International Climate Change: New Zealand's unconditional 2020 target PDF, 5.8 MB
10 August 2009 Climate Change: New Zealand’s 2020 Emissions Reduction Target PDF, 689 KB
10 August 2009 CAB Min (09) 28/9: Climate Change: New Zealand's 2020 Emissions Reduction Target PDF, 29 KB

Briefing notes

Date Title PDF link
3 August 2009 Briefing note 09-B-02068: Impacts of 2020 targets on the Maori economy PDF, 121 KB
28 July 2009 Briefing note 09-B-02155: Implications of the 2020 target on the second commitment period PDF, 47 KB
22 July 2009 Briefing note 09-B-02067: Final updated report on modelling the economic impacts of different 2020 target scenarios PDF, 93 KB
20 July 2009 Briefing note 09-B-01908: Land use area figures identified by the LUCAS mapping programme PDF, 65 KB
16 July 2009 Briefing note 09-B-01825: New Zealand’s 2020 target – further analysis and options PDF, 445 KB
15 July 2009 Briefing note 09-B-01970: Macro-economic impacts of different 2020 targets PDF, 70 KB
19 June 2009 Briefing note 09-B-01597: New Zealand’s 2020 target: initial results and implications PDF, 162 KB
10 June 2009 Briefing note 09-B-1507: New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions projections to 2020 PDF, 95 KB
14 May 2009 Briefing note 09-B-01292: Climate Change: Approach to determining New Zealand’s medium-term target PDF, 83 KB
16 April 2009 Briefing note 09-B-0897: Mitigation and mitigation costs estimates for the period 2013-2020: Background and intended approach to engaging with stakeholders PDF, 428 KB
9 March 2009 Briefing note 09-B-00576: Towards New Zealand’s 2020 emissions reduction target: update on analytical work PDF, 92 KB


Last updated: 16 September 2014