New Zealand’s projected greenhouse gas emissions to 2050

The latest projections of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions to 2050. These projections can help us understand how we are tracking towards our domestic and international emissions reduction targets.

Projections of greenhouse gas emissions as published on 15 December 2022

New Zealand has several greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. They include both domestic and international targets up to the year 2050. Projections help us understand how we are tracking towards our emission reduction targets.

This webpage provides projections using the 100-year time horizon global warming potentials for the non-carbon dioxide gases based on the values provided in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) and Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). AR5 values are provided in square brackets after the AR4 value.

The information on this page is based on the 2022 greenhouse gas inventory. Updated emissions projections based on the 2023 inventory will be published by December 2023.

Based on New Zealand’s existing policies and measures:

  • New Zealand’s gross emissions are projected to steadily decrease from 78.8 [81.8] million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 2020 to 56.4 [59.2] Mt CO2-e in 2050. This is 13.5 [13.5] per cent below New Zealand's emissions in 1990 and 28.4 [27.6] per cent below emissions in 2020.
  • New Zealand's net emissions, which includes gross emissions and emissions and removals from the land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector, are projected to decrease from 55.5 [47.2] Mt CO2-e in 2020 to 16.9 [19.7] Mt CO2-e in 2050, a 69.5 [66.3] per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2050.
  • New Zealand's target accounting emissions, which includes gross emissions and a subset of emissions and removals from the LULUCF sector, are projected to decrease from 70.3 [69.2] Mt CO2-e in 2020 to 29.1 [31.8] Mt CO2-e in 2050, a 58.7 [56.6] per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2050. 

Emissions reductions across all sectors are driving the decrease in gross emissions. Key reasons for this decline include: 

  • Retirement of coal and gas-fired power plants
  • Land-use change from agriculture to forestry, changes in farm management, and improvements in agricultural efficiency
  • Increasing energy efficiency and electrification in transport
  • Ongoing impacts of policies to reduce emissions across all sectors

Under target accounting forestry is projected to account for over half of the decrease in net emissions to 2050, in addition to the decreases in emissions across all other gross emissions sectors.

New Zealand’s historical and projected greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2050 using AR4 values

AR4 projections

Data file for the graphs [Excel, 241 KB]

What the AR4 graph shows

  • Gross emissions increased from 65.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 1990 to 78.8 Mt CO2-e in 2020. With existing measures, gross emissions are projected to steadily decrease to 56.4 Mt CO2-e in 2050.
  • Target accounting net emissions were 70.3 Mt CO2-e in 2020. Target accounting emissions are projected to remain steady in the early 2020’s, before declining, easing in the 2040’s, to 29.1 Mt CO2-e in 2050.

New Zealand’s historical and projected greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2050 using AR5 values

AR5 projections
AR5 projections

What the AR5 graph shows

  • Gross emissions increased from 68.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 1990 to 81.8 Mt CO2-e in 2020. With existing measures, gross emissions are projected to steadily decrease to 59.2 Mt CO2-e in 2050.
  • Target accounting net emissions were 73.3 Mt CO2-e in 2020. Target accounting emissions are projected to remain steady in the early 2020’s, before declining, easing in the 2040’s, to 31.8 Mt CO2-e in 2050.

What we include

  • Gross emissions include emissions from all sectors of the New Zealand economy excluding forestry and land-use emissions/removals. The sectors include energy (including transport), agriculture, industrial processes and product use and waste. They also include emissions from Tokelau.
  • Net emissions include gross emissions, plus emissions and removals from land use, land-use change and forestry.
  • Gross and net emissions are reported annually, by sector, in our national greenhouse gas inventory, as required under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
  • Target accounting emissions include gross emissions, along with a subset of our forestry and land-use emissions and removals, that are consistent with the accounting rules New Zealand has elected to apply post-2020. These count towards New Zealand’s first Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement (2021–2030) as well as New Zealand’s domestic targets and budgets.

How we project emissions

The emissions projections to 2050 incorporate information from New Zealand's greenhouse gas inventory which provides emissions data up to 2020. The projections have been prepared under the UNFCCC guidelines for reporting emissions within the National Communications and Biennial Report as well as for target accounting purposes post-2020.

The projections scenario presented on this webpage assumes only existing policies. These projections do not capture most of the new policies included in New Zealand’s first emissions reduction plan (ERP), released in May 2022.

These projections, and those in the National Communication and Biennial Report have a different approach to the projections developed in 2021 and 2022 to support New Zealand’s first emissions reduction plan.

These projections take a sector level approach based on UNFCCC reporting guidelines, while emissions for the ERP focused on understanding the mitigation potential of specific policies and measures. The difference in methodologies means the two sets of projections are not directly comparable.

For additional scenarios and more information on projections methodologies, assumptions, and policies included, see Chapter 5 - Projections in New Zealand’s Eighth National Communication.

Tracking progress towards targets

The Ministry publishes updates on how New Zealand is tracking towards its NDC.