The challenge of transitioning to net-zero emissions presents the single greatest opportunity that our country has had, in at least a generation, to develop our economy into one that is much more productive, much more sustainable and much more inclusive than the one we have today.
And that challenge is as urgent and important as it has ever been. The science tells us that limiting global warming to 1.5 ̊C above pre-industrial levels gives us the best chance of avoiding the worst effects. As temperatures have already risen more than 1 ̊C, we must act now to prevent further atmospheric warming and the catastrophes that come with it.
This document is Aotearoa New Zealand’s first emissions reduction plan. It contains strategies, policies and actions for achieving our first emissions budget, as required by the Climate Change Response Act 2002.
In doing so, it also outlines how we intend to play our part in global efforts to limit warming to 1.5 ̊C above pre-industrial levels.
This plan responds to the recommendations of He Pou a Rangi – Climate Change Commission (the Commission) in its report, Ināia tonu nei: a low emissions future for Aotearoa.
It also builds on the Productivity Commission’s 2018 report, Low-emissions economy [PDF, 8.6 MB]; the cross-government response (commonly known as the Climate Action Plan 2019*); and the Interim Climate Change Committee’s 2019 reports, Accelerated electrification [PDF, 1.5 MB] and Action on agricultural emissions [PDF, 2.5 MB].
This plan also draws on a significant number of departmental strategies and work programmes, such as the Ministry of Transport’s 2021 report, Hīkina te Kohupara – Kia mauri ora ai te iwi – Transport Emissions: Pathways to Net Zero by 2050 [PDF, 4.1 MB].
Over the past five years, these reports, recommendations and plans have driven the most ambitious government climate change work programme ever. This has resulted in:
- the unanimous passage of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act in 2019
- major reforms to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS)
- the end of new offshore fossil fuel exploration
- the establishment of New Zealand Green Investment Finance and the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry fund
- the Carbon Neutral Government Programme and State Sector Decarbonisation Fund
- the Clean Vehicle Discount and vehicle emission standards
- major investments in public transport and rail infrastructure
- He Waka Eke Noa partnership to reduce agricultural emissions
- mandatory climate-related risk reporting for listed companies and financial institutions
- and more.
These changes have already lowered the trajectory of Aotearoa New Zealand’s future greenhouse gas emissions – but not enough to put us on a path towards net zero.
That is why this plan is so important. It is the first statutory plan, under the Climate Change Response Act, to require the Government to act to reduce emissions right across the economy and support all New Zealanders to make the most of the transition and seize the opportunity to lower the cost of living and improve living standards.
Some major actions over the next few years will include:
- increasing access to electric vehicles (EVs), beginning the process of decarbonising heavy transport and freight and helping more people to walk, cycle and take public transport
- supporting businesses to improve energy efficiency and move away from fossil fuels, such as coal, by continuing to roll out the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry fund
- banning new low- and medium-temperature coal boilers and phasing out existing ones
- introducing an emissions pricing mechanism for agriculture
- accelerating the delivery of agricultural emissions reduction tools and technologies for farmers and farming businesses through the establishment of a new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions
- reducing the amount of waste (including food waste) going to landfills, investing in waste infrastructure and expanding landfill gas capture
- establishing native forests at scale to develop long-term carbon sinks and improve biodiversity
- accelerating the supply of woody biomass to replace coal and other carbon intensive fuels and materials
- driving mission-led innovation in some of the most challenging parts of our economy through climate innovation platforms and the wider research, science and innovation system
- requiring refrigerants to be captured and destroyed when heating and cooling systems reach the end of their life
- and more.
This executive summary briefly outlines New Zealand’s strategy for reducing emissions, the principles that guide that strategy, and the key steps we are taking to put that strategy into action over the coming years.
Our strategy for reducing emissions
Below is a map outlining Aotearoa New Zealand’s emissions reductions strategy. It also points you to the chapters of the emissions reduction plan, where you can dive into as much or as little detail as you want.
The strategy, and this plan to execute it, is based on five principles:
- Playing our part
- Empowering Māori
- Equitable transition
- Working with nature
- A productive, sustainable and inclusive economy
The following outlines how those principles inform the design of the emissions reduction strategy and plan. The final section of this executive summary, Making the plan happen, describes the lines of accountability and responsibility for delivering the actions in this plan.
1. Playing our part
Aotearoa New Zealand’s emissions reduction plan
CH 1. Playing our part
Purpose: To contribute to the global effort to limit global warming to 1.5˚C
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge of our time. The science tells us that limiting global warming to 1.5 ̊C above pre-industrial levels gives us the best chance of avoiding the worst effects.
Therefore, the purpose of the strategy, also required under the Climate Change Response Act 2002, is for Aotearoa to contribute to the global effort to limit temperature rise to 1.5 ̊C.
Delivering on that purpose means setting long-term emissions reduction targets to 2050.
Those long-term emissions reduction targets will be met through a series of ‘stepping stone’ emissions budgets and emissions reduction plans that include the policies and strategies for achieving those budgets.
Our emissions budgets for the next 14 years will be (Mt CO2-e):
|First emissions budget (2022-25)||Second emissions budget (2026-30)||Third emissions budget (2031-35)|
|All gases, net (AR5)||290||305||240|
A new emissions reduction plan will be published before the start of each emissions budget period.
Each emissions reduction plan will be informed by advice provided by the Commission, which will take new data and information into account. The second and third emissions budgets may be revised if the criteria in the Climate Change Response Act are satisfied and a revision is recommended by the Commission.
Alongside our domestic emissions budgets are our nationally determined contributions to the global effort to reduce emissions under the Paris Agreement.
The emissions reduction plan focuses on how we will reduce emissions, but we also need to adapt to climate impacts that are already locked in. This will primarily be addressed through the national adaptation plan. Each sector chapter has identified areas where action can be taken to improve resilience to climate change while reducing emissions.
2. Empowering Māori
|CH. 2 Empowering Māori|
|Establish a platform for Māori climate action|
|Develop a Māori climate strategy and action plan|
Climate change, and our response to it, has the potential to affect all aspects of Māori life.
Tangata whenua are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change and there are particular risks and opportunities for the Māori economy in the transition.
Māori are kaitiaki of their whenua, leaders in their communities, decision makers about resources and infrastructure, land and business owners. Mātauranga Māori helps us to learn and better inform our decision making.
We need to ensure an equitable transition for Māori, led by Māori, to uphold their rights and interests under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. That will require building Crown– Māori relationships and capability to work together as equal partners on our climate response.
The Government will work with Māori to:
- embed partnership and representation – to uphold Te Tiriti principles, processes and mechanisms will be resourced and designed alongside Māori to help tangata whenua to actively participate in the climate response
- support Māori-led strategy and alignment – to elevate te ao Māori within the climate response, Māori will be supported to define, measure and implement a Māori climate strategy and action plan
- activate kaupapa Māori, tangata Māori solutions – to enable community action, kaupapa Māori, tangata Māori actions and solutions for the climate emergency will be funded.
3. Equitable transition
|CH. 3 Equitable Transition|
|Develop an equitable transition strategy|
|Advance the just transitions partnership programme|
This transition is an opportunity to work together to improve wellbeing, become more productive, increase resilience and reduce inequality.
All New Zealanders can benefit from the changes we need to make the transition to a low-emissions economy.
This is our chance to create new jobs through low-emissions industries, lower the cost of living and raise our living standards. We need to make sure those opportunities work for everyone so that our transition is just, fair and inclusive for all New Zealanders.
The Government’s approach to supporting New Zealanders through this transition is built around five objectives:
- seize the opportunities of the transition
- support proactive transition planning
- enable an affordable and inclusive transition
- build the evidence base and tools to monitor and assess impacts
- encourage informed public participation.
4. Working with nature
|CH. 4 Working with Nature|
|Prioritise nature-based solutions in planning and regulatory systems|
|Establish an integrated work programme to deliver climate, biodiversity and wider environmental outcomes|
The climate crisis is caused in part by the destruction of the world’s remaining wilderness over the past century. Both the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis have the same root cause.
Our efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change align with our biodiversity objectives.
Our native ecosystems remove and store carbon, increase our resilience to climate change impacts and support thriving biodiversity and wellbeing.
There is also a real opportunity to use nature-based solutions to tackle the climate emergency and to design our response to the climate crisis in a way that protects, enhances and restores nature where possible.
The climate and biodiversity crises are inextricably linked. Aligning work on climate change and biodiversity is an opportunity to take strong action in both areas. This approach will ensure our response to the climate crisis also improves the resilience of our native ecosystems and does not further their destruction.
To tackle the climate and biodiversity crises together, the Government will:
- prioritise nature-based solutions in our planning and regulatory system
- report on biodiversity as part of emissions reduction plan reporting
- establish an integrated work programme that delivers climate, biodiversity and wider environmental outcomes
- encourage global efforts to use nature-based solutions.
5. A productive, sustainable and inclusive economy
The outcome of this emissions reduction plan is an economy that is more productive, more sustainable and more inclusive than the one we have today.
Climate action can and should be an investment in higher paying jobs and more productive businesses, rather than a cost we must bear along the way.
Aotearoa is well placed to innovate the way we currently do business, seize opportunities for new technology and build our clean green brand for a world increasingly seeking low-emissions products and solutions. This requires action across the whole economy.
Getting the settings right across the whole economy
|Settings – Key actions|
|Ch. 5 Emissions pricing||
|Ch. 6 Funding and finance||
|Ch. 7 Planning and infrastructure||
|Ch. 8 Research, science, innovation and technology||
|Ch. 9 Circular economy and bioeconomy||
The Government has a particular role in ensuring that our economic system settings support industries to take up the opportunities afforded by the transition. That means finding the right balance of emissions pricing through the NZ ETS, regulation, and supporting policies such as innovation, equitable transition measures, behaviour change and finance. Five main actions support this goal.
- Use emissions pricing to provide the right incentives for businesses (including in agriculture) to cut pollution and invest in clean tech alternatives.
- Develop the sustainable finance sector to provide capital and investment in every part of the economy.
- Get New Zealand’s planning and infrastructure systems and processes into shape to accelerate the transition in our cities, towns and industries.
- Reshape the research, science and innovation system and encourage technology with mission-led Climate Innovation Platforms that drive transformative change in some of our most challenging parts of the economy.
- Invest in circular economy and bioeconomy strategies to make greater use of our existing resources and replace non-renewable resources with renewables everywhere possible.
The system settings diagram provides a short overview of the key actions we’re taking on system settings across the whole economy. You can read more about our approach to system-wide settings in chapters 5 to 9 of the emissions reduction plan.
Working with key sectors and industries
Getting our economic system settings right will support climate action in every part of the economy.
But we still need to work with our key emissions-intensive industries and sectors to support them to both cut emissions and find new opportunities. This includes:
- increasing access to electric vehicles (EVs), starting to decarbonise heavy transport and freight, and supporting people to walk, cycle and take public transport
- phasing out fossil fuels and massively ramping up renewables in transport, electricity generation and industry
- lifting the quality of home and commercial construction with the use of sustainable and low-carbon, renewable materials
- accelerating the delivery of agricultural emissions reduction tools and technologies to farmers and agricultural businesses
- accelerating the supply of woody biomass to replace coal and other high-carbon fuels and materials, and encouraging native forests as long-term carbon sinks
- cutting the amount of waste going to landfills, including food waste, and investing in waste infrastructure and landfill gas capture
- requiring refrigerants to be captured and destroyed when heating and cooling systems reach the end of their life.
The sector plans diagram shows the key actions we’re taking to work with some of our most important industries and sectors. You can read more about our industry-specific plans in chapters 10 to 16 of the emissions reduction plan.
|Sector plans: Key actions|
|Ch. 10 Transport||
|Ch. 11 Energy and industry||
|Ch. 12 Building and construction||
|Ch. 13 Agriculture||
|Ch. 14 Forestry||
|Ch. 15 Waste||
|Ch. 16 Fluorinated gases||
This is an all-of-government plan involving many agencies, departments and ministries, and their ministers. Making it work requires new ways of coordinating effort across government, as well as between government and Māori, local government, the business community and civil society.
To that end, the Government has established dedicated programme governance and management for the emissions reduction plan, led by the Prime Minister.
The Minister of Climate Change is responsible for achieving successive emissions budgets and the long-term 2050 target. However, success depends on individual Ministers and government agencies developing and implementing policies and monitoring progress.
The Climate Change Chief Executives Board (CE Board) is responsible to the Prime Minister and is made up of the chief executives who are responsible for delivering the policies and strategies in the plan. The Government will formalise the CE Board as an Interdepartmental Executive Board under the Public Service Act 2020.
The Climate Response Ministerial Group was established in 2020 and is chaired by the Prime Minister. This group meets regularly to progress and direct the climate change work programme, including the emissions budgets and sector sub-targets.
Monitoring and reporting will allow us to stay on track and manage unexpected impacts
The Commission and central government agencies will be responsible for monitoring and regularly reporting on progress towards the sub-sector targets and emissions budgets, as well as the success and implementation of the emissions reduction plan.
Regular reporting will allow risks and uncertainties to be proactively managed. The CE Board will play a key role in advising on how policies can be adjusted so that we stay on track to meeting our emissions budgets and achieving the 2050 target. The CE Board will also advise on how any unexpected impacts can be managed, including for groups such as workers, businesses, households and different communities.
More information is on the Ministry for the Environment’s website
A table of actions provides more detail about how the Government will deliver emissions reductions, particularly over the first emissions budget period. This is available on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.
Supporting information can also be found on the Ministry for the Environment’s website. This includes:
- the Government's response to the Climate Change Commission’s recommendations
- this table sets out how the actions in this plan correspond with – and respond to – the Commission’s recommendations
- a technical information annex
- this includes detailed analysis that shows how those actions will drive emissions reductions in line with the emissions budgets.
© Ministry for the Environment