The transition to a low-emissions and climate-resilient Aotearoa New Zealand

New Zealand’s climate change programme will help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and ensure a climate-resilient future for New Zealanders. 

About New Zealand’s climate change programme

Cabinet has agreed a framework for the whole of Government, which will drive our climate change policy towards low greenhouse gas emissions (emissions) and climate resilience in New Zealand.

The framework has a focus on:

  • leadership at home and internationally
  • a productive, sustainable and climate-resilient economy
  • a just and inclusive society.

It supports New Zealand’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, including our target of reducing emissions by 11 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 (the 2030 target).  

It also recognises that we need to adapt to climate change impacts to address the changes we are already seeing and will continue to encounter (even with a global reduction in future emissions).

Guided by the framework, the Government’s programme of work and initiatives below will help us reduce our emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

See Cabinet paper: Framework for climate change policy and key upcoming decisions

See Paris Agreement

See 2030 target

The Zero Carbon Bill

New Zealand is on the path to a low emission, climate resilient future; the Government aims to reduce our emissions to net zero by 2050.

  • The Government is committed to New Zealand becoming a world leader in climate change action
  • It has introduced a new Zero Carbon Bill that will set a new emissions reduction target by 2050
  • The Zero Carbon Bill proposes to establish an independent Climate Change Commission.

The Environment Select Committee is currently considering the bill. 

Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it has social and economic implications too, and shifting to a low emission economy presents new opportunities for innovation.

  • We are working closely with businesses, NGOs and the public to make a just and effective transition to a low emissions and climate resilient economy.

Independent Climate Change Commission

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill provides a framework for reducing emissions by 2050 and achieving a climate resilient future. This includes the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission. The bill is currently going through the parliamentary process. It is expected to be enacted by the end of 2019. The Climate Change Commission would be operational shortly afterwards.  

For more information see Establishing the Climate Change Commission.

The Transition Hub

The role of the Government’s Transition Hub (hub) is to provide advice to the Government on how we transition to a low emissions economy. It also supports government sectors such as the energy, transport, built environment and waste sectors to make the transition. This includes making sure policies of the various sectors align. The hub is made up of people from government agencies in the natural resources sector.

The hub has coordinated the Government’s response to the New Zealand Productivity Commission's Low emissions economy final report [New Zealand Productivity Commission website]. The report provided recommendations on how to drive the transition to a low emissions economy. For the hub’s response see Government response to the New Zealand Productivity Commission Low Emissions Economy report.

However, making the transition is not just about what government does – we all (individuals, businesses and organisations) need to take action, and innovation and technology are key to the transition to a low-emissions economy. 

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) is our key policy tool for reducing emissions and meeting our emission reduction targets.

The settings of the NZ ETS need to reflect the Government’s decisions about how New Zealand is going to meet its targets.

How the NZ ETS work fits in with the Zero Carbon Bill

We are progressing with work on strengthening and improving the operation of the NZ ETS. We are focused on:

  • how best to implement the in-principle decisions made by the Government in July 2017.
  • advice on a package of forestry accounting and operational improvements, any future phase-out of free allocation and other operational and technical matters. Information on this work is available here.

Consultation with stakeholders took place during August and September 2018 to help inform the Government’s final policy decisions on improvements to the NZ ETS.  The Government announced decisions in December 2018 and in May and July 2019. 

For information on these decisions see Proposed improvements to the NZ ETS

For stakeholder submissions see Consultation on proposed improvements to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme

Reducing emissions from agriculture

Nitrous oxide and methane from agriculture make up about half of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government consulted with the public from 16 July to 13 August 2019 on its proposals to reduce agricultural emissions, see Action on agriculture: our proposals, your views.

The Government continues to invest in research and development to identify options to reduce agricultural emissions.

Key initiatives the Government is supporting include the following.

Offsetting emissions through forestry

Forestry is a major part of the economy and plays an important role in helping us meet our emission reduction targets. It is one of New Zealand’s most important options to deliver low-cost carbon dioxide removals at scale.

Including post-1989 forestry in the NZ ETS gives landowners a financial benefit for the carbon their trees remove from the atmosphere, and this helps encourage them to establish and manage forests in a way that increases carbon storage.

The Government is implementing a One Billion Trees Fund [Te Uru Rākau Forestry New Zealand website] to support individuals and groups across New Zealand to plant trees and manage land sustainably. In addition, the Government is introducing improvements to the NZ ETS to drive the planting of new trees.  This work is led by the Ministry for Primary Industries. For more information see Emissions Trading Scheme reviews [Ministry for Primary Industries website].

International carbon markets: Supporting cooperation under the Paris Agreement

New Zealand is exploring opportunities for cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.  We are in discussions with a number of countries and in various fora, including the Asia Pacific Carbon Markets Roundtable and as a Technical Partner to the World Bank’s Partnership for Market Readiness. We are also active in the United Nations negotiations where the rules are being developed for the use of international carbon markets towards Paris Agreement targets.

The International Carbon Markets Project was established in 2016 to explore options for New Zealand to supplement domestic climate change action and forestry with high-integrity international emission reduction units in the 2020s.

An important aspect of our work on international carbon markets is ensuring the environmental integrity of any use of these markets towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. New Zealand leads the Ministerial Declaration on Carbon Markets – a group of countries developing standards and guidelines for environmental integrity in international carbon markets.

Adapting to the impacts of climate change

The climate is already changing and past emissions have already locked in further change. The pace and scale at which New Zealand will need to adapt will largely be driven by the world’s ability to meet the Paris Agreement goals of reducing emissions.

Local government entities have responsibilities under the Resource Management Act to prepare and respond to the impacts of climate change. The Ministry provides information to local government on dealing with the impacts of climate change.

See Guidance for local government on preparing for climate change

Recommendations of the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group

The Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group was set up in 2016 to provide advice on how New Zealand can adapt to the impacts of climate change while sustainably growing the economy. The group consisted of technical experts from a range of sectors (for more information, see Climate change adaptation technical working group).

Read the group's Stocktake report on the expected impacts of climate change in New Zealand, as well as its second and final report released in May 2018, which provides recommendations for the actions New Zealand needs to take to build resilience to the effects of climate change while growing the economy sustainably.

Climate finance: investing in climate change action

‘Climate finance’ refers to all investment and expenditure, both public and private, that contributes to either climate mitigation or adaptation.

New Zealand recognises the importance of mobilising climate finance flows to achieve the transformational economic change anticipated by the Paris Agreement.

There is a wide range of activities being undertaken in New Zealand across the private and public sectors that can be considered to be domestic climate finance action.

The Government is supporting the introduction of a Green Investment Fund. The purpose of the fund will be to invest in assets that reduce carbon emissions. This will mobilise additional private capital to bring forward projects that support long term objectives for emissions reduction. It is proposed that the fund receive a $100m capital injection from Government and it operates independently.

The Government is also looking into the disclosure of climate risk in New Zealand and methods for tracking the mobilisation of climate finance. Both are potentially important enabling conditions that would support the scaling up and directing of finance flows towards climate-aligned outcomes.

The Ministry for the Environment commissioned a report to gain a better understanding of the landscape of climate finance in New Zealand.

See Climate Finance Landscape for Aotearoa New Zealand: A Preliminary Survey