National communication and the biennial report

New Zealand’s national communication and biennial report track our progress towards meeting internationally-agreed climate change commitments. This page provides links to the reports and background information.

Publication links

‘New Zealand’s Seventh National Communication’ and ‘Third Biennial Report’ are expected to be produced in 2017 (for submission by 1 January 2018). 

About New Zealand’s national communication

New Zealand's national communications are comprehensive reports on our country’s progress towards meeting its commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. National communications are required under Article 4.1 and 12 of the UNFCCC and are produced every four years.

About the biennial report

The biennial report is a newer requirement under the UNFCCC. The biennial report presents New Zealand’s progress towards achieving emission reduction targets, projected emissions and provision of financial and other support to developing countries. It contains a subset of the information in the national communication, but is more succinct and produced every two years.

Production of the reports

The reports are produced by the Ministry for the Environment with the help of other government agencies and technical contributors.

Countries that produce a national communication and a biennial report

All parties to the UNFCCC produce national communications, but there are different reporting requirements for Annex I, or developed countries such as New Zealand, and non-Annex I parties. All parties are to produce a national communication every four years. However non-Annex I parties have less stringent reporting and review requirements. All parties are required to produce a biennial report but discretion on timing is granted to the less developed countries and small island developing states.

You can find all previously submitted national communications and biennial reports on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website.

Review process for national communications and biennial reports

Each national communication of an Annex I party is subject to an in-depth review. The review is conducted by an international team of experts coordinated by the UNFCCC secretariat.

The review typically involves a centralised study (in Bonn, Germany) or an ‘in-country’ visit. The review team provides a comprehensive technical assessment of the party’s national communication. It summarises this in an assessment review report (ARR). The ARR also includes reviewers’ encouragements and recommendations to improve future reports.

Biennial reports are subject to an ‘in-country’ technical review (when submitted with the national communication) as well as a multilateral assessment in public sessions run by the UNFCCC. 

What the reports contain

The national communication and biennial reports summarise New Zealand’s:

  • domestic greenhouse gas emissions profile
  • climate change policy measures
  • progress on implementing New Zealand’s obligations under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

They contain some of the same information, but ‘New Zealand’s Sixth National Communication’ is more detailed and has a broader range of content.

It includes information about the major sources of our emissions, projections of emissions out to 2030 and our climate change efforts, including:

  • mitigation policies
  • adaptation policies
  • climate change research
  • communication, training and public awareness work
  • financial and technological support given to developing countries
  • New Zealand’s contribution to the global climate observation system.

The structure and content of the reports is governed by reporting guidelines agreed to under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

Greenhouse gas emissions projections available in New Zealand's second biennial report

The report includes projections of New Zealand’s emissions out to 2030. The projections are prepared according to guidelines from the UNFCCC. The projections data are available for download on the publication page of the second biennial report.

Information provided in the second biennial report on New Zealand's progress towards its Kyoto Protocol and 2020 targets

New Zealand’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol was to return emissions to 1990 levels on average over the commitment period (2008–2012) or otherwise take responsibility for the excess. The accounting for the Kyoto Protocol First Commitment Period, which was reported in the second biennial report, indicates that New Zealand’s target for the 2008-2012 period was achieved. This is expected to be confirmed when New Zealand’s true-up period report is reviewed by April 2016.

See Latest update on New Zealand’s 2020 net position for how New Zealand is tracking to meet its 2020 emissions target. 

Why projections of greenhouse gas emissions vary

Projections of emissions and removals are by their very nature uncertain and variable. Projections of emissions vary depending on the guidelines they follow, improvements in data and methodologies over time, as well as changes in assumptions that underpin the projections.

Economic variables such as commodity and oil prices, the assumed carbon price, the assumed rate of afforestation and deforestation, and the harvest age of forests have significant effects on projected emissions and removals.

National communications and biennial reports are required to report projections following UNFCCC reporting rules, which differ from the Kyoto Protocol accounting framework used for the Kyoto First Commitment Period and the 2020 target. 

The difference between gross and net emissions

Emissions can be reported on a gross basis (excluding removals from forestry) or a net basis (including removals from forestry). Gross emissions reported under the UNFCCC and under the Kyoto Protocol are similar, and come from the following sectors: energy, transport, industrial processes and product use, agriculture, and waste.

Net emissions also include land use and forestry. Net emissions differ under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol in the treatment of forestry and land use. The main difference is in the treatment of removals and harvesting emissions from forests established before 1990. This difference in reporting of net emissions results in differences between the net emissions figures under UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol reporting.

How forestry affects New Zealand’s emissions

New Zealand’s net emissions are significantly affected by carbon dioxide removals from the planted forest estate. Forests act as a carbon sink as they grow by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in their trunks, leaves and roots. When forests are harvested, they switch from being a carbon sink to a carbon source, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere rather than removing it. Because of this influence, net emissions at any given time are strongly affected by the harvesting and planting cycles of New Zealand’s planted forest.