New Zealand’s ambition

New Zealand is working towards the goal of a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

New Zealand’s pathway

Challenges also bring opportunities. A planned transition over time gives us the best chance of identifying and bringing about new opportunities for low-emissions economic development, and minimising the negative social and economic impacts of change so it is just and fair for the people, communities and regions of our country.

We are not starting from scratch. We are on track to meet our emissions reduction target for 2020 and have taken the first steps towards meeting our 2030 and existing 2050 targets. Now we are ramping up our ambition and further strengthening our institutions and strategies.

New Zealand’s story so far

In 2008, New Zealand set up one of the first emissions trading schemes in the world. We are now strengthening the scheme to ensure it helps us move to a low emissions economy.

New Zealand’s current long-term emission reduction goal is to halve our emissions by 2050.  We are now looking at reviewing this target in light of the commitment made in Paris to achieve net zero emissions globally by the second half of the century.

We also have international commitments for 2020 and 2030:

  • In 2013 we announced an unconditional target to reach 5 per cent below our 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2020. This is our current target as it covers the years from 2013 until 2020. We are on track to meet it.
  • In 2015 we set a target under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. This target is equivalent to 11 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

New Zealand’s action from 2018

New Zealand is introducing new climate change legislation to set us on a path towards a low emissions and climate resilient future. It will set a new long-term emissions reduction target, and set up an independent Climate Change Commission that will establish interim emissions budgets to keep New Zealand on track to meet our climate change target.

Green investment
New Zealand is setting up a Green Investment Fund, with an initial Government contribution of NZ$100million.

Development assistance
New Zealand supports climate action in developing countries, with a particular focus on the Pacific. Climate action is integrated into all New Zealand Aid Programme initiatives. This helps deliver sustainable, inclusive outcomes.

Action by the private sector is crucial to getting us to our 2050 goal. Several of New Zealand’s largest businesses are showing leadership and have already gone ‘carbon neutral’, and many others are working on it.

Agriculture has a vital role to play because of its importance to our economy but also its high proportion of our country’s emissions. New Zealand has the highest proportion of GDP from land sector exports of any country and is the seventh largest net agricultural exporter in the world in dollar terms. Consequently, agricultural emissions account for approximately half of our total greenhouse gas emissions.

To address this challenge, the industry is making changes to its practices (e.g. Beef and Lamb’s intention for carbon neutrality by 2050, and Synlait’s commitment to reduce emissions by 35% per kg of milk solids on-farm).

New Zealand is using its expertise to help others take action to address the one third of global emissions that come from the land sector.

We started the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases in 2009 to encourage collaboration to improve scientific understanding of and develop ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while meeting growing food demand.

In 2010, we set up the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre to identify practical ways to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from pastoral livestock systems, while improving productivity.

The current level of forestry in New Zealand offsets around 29% of our gross emissions in 2016, but this has been decreasing as 1990s plantings teaching harvesting age.

The Government has set a goal to plant one billion trees by 2028 that will help in meeting our climate change targets. The One Billion Trees Programme focuses on both permanent and production forestry, and has wider social, environmental and regional development benefits.

New Zealand has tasked an interim climate change committee to investigate how New Zealand might transition towards 100% renewable electricity by 2035 (which includes geothermal) in a normal hydrological year.

The Government has announced it will not grant any new permits for offshore petroleum exploration in New Zealand. This decision honours the rights of existing permit-holders, striking the balance of protecting existing industry, ensuring a measured and planned transition away from fossil fuels, and taking a step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand.

New Zealand is well placed to benefit from electric vehicles. More than 80 percent of electricity is generated from renewable sources and there is enough supply for widespread adoption of EVs. The government is actively encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles and has joined the global Electric Vehicle Initiative.