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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The New Zealand Government is committed to doing its fair share in combating climate change and reducing New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. Tackling climate change is one of the Government’s key environmental priorities.

The Government’s principal policy response to climate change is the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). In various sectors (such as energy), the Government is also undertaking a range of other policies and measures that are contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while achieving other policy goals.

New Zealand’s major climate change mitigation policies are detailed in the Polices and Measures chapter of New Zealand’s Sixth National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Our major polices and measures are also illustrated in a table of policies and measures which is taken from the same document.

On this page

This page will point you to information on New Zealand’s domestic climate change mitigation policies and measures – what we are doing to reduce our emissions. For information about the international negotiations under the UNFCCC visit the International Forums and Agreements page.

New Zealand’s climate change targets

On 16 August 2013, the Government announced an unconditional 2020 climate change target of 5 per cent below 1990 emissions.  This is in addition to the conditional target announced in August 2009:  that 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.

In March 2011, the Government announced a long-term target of a 50 per cent reduction in net greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2050. Further information on this decision and the public consultation that took place are available here. The 2050 target discussion paper can be found here.
A ‘responsibility target’ means New Zealand is expected to meet its target through a mixture of domestic emission reductions, the storage of carbon in forests and the purchase of emission reduction units in other countries.

Further information on the conditions associated with the 2020 target is available on the Government’s Climate Change Information website. The conditional 2020 emissions target discussion paper can be found here.
New Zealand supports a global goal of stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at not more than 450 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalent.

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme

The Government’s principal policy response to climate change is the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The ETS has been designed to support global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic productivity.

The ETS introduces a price on greenhouse gas emissions to provide an incentive for people to reduce those emissions and plant forests to absorb carbon dioxide. It places New Zealand as part of a group of countries introducing emissions trading, giving us a strong voice on the world stage and enhancing New Zealand’s international reputation.

The NZ ETS does not require households to trade emission units. However, households will feel some of the effects of the scheme as the sectors that are involved pass their costs on to households. Most businesses in New Zealand will also not be required to trade emissions units. The Government's Climate Change Information website has more information about the NZ ETS including information about how the NZ ETS will affect you.

Other domestic policies and measures to reduce emissions

Climate change requires an all-of-government approach. This involves relevant agencies responsible for policy and measures within their sectors.

These agencies are undertaking a range of measures that are contributing to reducing New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these measures have co-benefits; for example they may help to improve public health or save money.

Detailed information on these measures can be found on the Other policies and measures page of the Government’s Climate Change Information website.

This information can also be found in New Zealand’s 5th National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is illustrated in a table of policies and measures which is taken from the same document.

Kyoto Protocol flexibility mechanisms

The Kyoto Protocol flexibility mechanisms are market mechanisms designed to help developed countries reduce the costs of meeting their emissions targets by achieving emission reductions at lower costs through projects in other countries. These include:


New Zealand remains committed to exploring innovative, technological solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our biggest challenge is agriculture and that is why we are ramping up our investment in research to find practical technologies that would reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions on farms. New Zealand’s biggest contribution to reducing dangerous climate change will be its continued development of the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases. This initiative will bring interested countries together to drive greater international cooperation, collaboration and investment in this area of research.

Another important initiative is the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP). The PGP is a government–industry initiative, which provides investment in significant programmes of research and innovation to boost the economic growth and sustainability of New Zealand’s primary, forestry and food sectors.

The PGP will provide funding of no less than $500,000 over the lifetime of the programme, which must be matched by industry co-investors. In 2009, the Government increased the funding for the PGP from $30 million for 2009/10 to $70 million per annum from 2012/13.

A key programme under the PGP is the establishment of the Centre for Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research, which has been allocated NZ$5 million of the PGP funding each year. It will be 100 per cent government-funded, with no requirement for industry co-funding and a commitment to core funding for 10 years.

What you can do to reduce emissions

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) works with businesses, government, local government, communities and individuals to integrate energy efficiency and renewable energy into their everyday activities. For more information visit the:

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is undertaking a range of projects to assist the land-based sector to address climate change. Three major schemes that promote afforestation and provide incentives to maintain forests are the East Coast Forestry Project, the Afforestation Grant Scheme and the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative. The ETS also provides incentives for forestry.

To find out more about participating in these schemes and how forestry can earn credits under the ETS visit MPI’s website .

Last updated: 17 December 2013