About tracking greenhouse gas emissions

This page outlines why New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are tracked and the responsibilities of government agencies.

Why greenhouse gas emissions are tracked

Greenhouse gases naturally trap heat in the atmosphere and are necessary to support life on earth. Over the past century or so, greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have been increasing. Human activities have largely been responsible for the increases. The increased levels of greenhouse gases change the climate by trapping energy in the atmosphere.

Human-induced greenhouse gases are being tracked in order to understand the scale of the problem and to work out how best to manage it. Globally, 63 per cent of these emissions are produced by the energy sector. The land sector is the next highest emitter, producing 31 per cent of the global total, mostly due to deforestation and agricultural practices. Industrial processes, solvent and waste sectors are collectively responsible for emitting the remaining six per cent of these human-induced greenhouse gases.

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol agreements, New Zealand and other signatory countries have agreed to reduce their human-induced greenhouse gas emissions (emissions). The global goal of the Kyoto Protocol is to reduce emissions to five per cent below 1990 levels using agreed rules. Each country commits to emissions reductions in relation to their 1990 levels and must report annually on its emissions for the following economic sectors:

  • energy
  • industrial processes and other product use
  • agriculture
  • land use and forestry
  • waste.

The reporting shows how countries are tracking against agreed emissions reduction targets. To find out more about New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets see: 

New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets [Climate Change Information website] 

Responsibilities for tracking emissions

New Zealand takes a ‘cross-government’ approach to tracking emissions. The government agencies responsible for tracking emissions by sector are listed in the table below.

Government agencies responsible for tracking New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions


Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Industrial processes and other product use

Ministry for the Environment


Ministry for Primary Industries


Ministry for the Environment

Land use and forestry

Ministry for the Environment

Supplementary Kyoto Protocol reporting requirements for the land use and forestry sector

Ministry for the Environment

Supplementary Kyoto Protocol reporting requirements relating to the registry of Kyoto Protocol units

Environmental Protection Authority

Our tracking role for land use and forestry

The Ministry for the Environment is responsible for tracking emissions from land use and forestry. The land use and forestry sector is different from the other sectors, as it’s the only one that can remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Methods used to estimate emissions in the land use and forestry sector include:

  • mapping land use
  • measuring forest carbon
  • measuring soil carbon.

Our publishing role

We compile and publish New Zealand’s emissions from all the sectors in its national inventory known as ‘New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory’. It follows the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s good practice guidance at all stages of the tracking and reporting process.

Find out more