Policy framework

We have a framework for the whole of Government that drives our climate change policy towards low greenhouse gas emissions (emissions) and climate resilience in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The framework has a focus on:

  • leadership at home and internationally
  • a productive, sustainable and climate-resilient economy
  • a just and inclusive society.

It supports Aotearoa New Zealand’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, including our target of reducing net emissions by 50 per cent below 2005 gross emissions for the period 2021-30.

It also recognises that we need to adapt to climate change impacts to address the changes we are already seeing and will continue to encounter (even with a global reduction in future emissions).

Guided by the framework, the Government’s programme of work and initiatives will help us reduce our emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Cabinet paper: Framework for climate change policy and key upcoming decisions

Our emissions reduction target under the Paris Agreement

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act and independent Climate Change Commission

The Government is committed to Aotearoa New Zealand becoming a world leader in climate change action.

  • A new domestic emissions reduction target by 2050 was set into law in November 2019 with the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act
  • The Climate Change Commission was established in December 2019 to:
    • provide advice to Government on climate change mitigation and adaptation
    • monitor progress towards the new 2050 target emissions budgets and the implementation of a National Adaptation Plan. 

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act

Climate Change Commission website

Emissions budgets

As required by the Climate Change Response Act 2002, the Climate Change Commission provides recommendations to Government on emissions budgets.

An emissions budget is a total quantity of emissions that is allowed during an emissions budget period. Emissions budgets will operate as ‘stepping stones’ that keep us on track to meeting our long-term emissions reductions targets.

Each emissions budget covers a period of five years (except the first emissions budget which will cover the period 2022–2025). 

Find out more about emissions budgets

Emissions reduction plan

The Government released in May 2022 Aotearoa New Zealand's first Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP). It describes how we are going to meet emissions budgets and make progress towards meeting our 2050 target.

As required by the Climate Change Response Act 2002, the Climate Change Commission provided the report Ināia tonu nei: a low emissions future for Aotearoa to the Government in June 2021. This report provided advice on climate action in Aotearoa New Zealand. The first ERP has been developed following this advice and further analysis.

Read the emissions reduction plan

New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s key policy tools to drive emissions abatement and meet legislated emission reduction targets and emissions budgets.  

The reforms in mid-2020 improved the scheme to help Aotearoa reach its emissions reduction targets. The auctioning of units, the phase-out of industrial allocation, a cap on the units available for auction, and averaging accounting for forestry starting in 2023 were added into the scheme.

The current NZ ETS work programme is focusing on five areas to further improve the effectiveness of the scheme:

  • reviewing the NZ ETS — to assess if changes are needed to provide a stronger incentive for businesses to transition away from fossil fuels, while also supporting greenhouse gas removals 
  • assessment of unit supply and demand
  • developing a market governance framework
  • updating industrial allocation policy
  • technical regulation updates including annual updates to the unit limit and price controls. 

Find out more and have your say on the review

Find out more about the NZ ETS

Reducing emissions from agriculture

Nitrous oxide and methane from agriculture make up almost half of Aotearoa New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions. However they have been excluded from emissions pricing in the NZ ETS.

In 2019, the Government decided to put a price on agricultural emissions from 2025 to close this gap in our climate response and help us meet our emissions reductions goals.

As a key step towards this, He Waka Eke Noa - Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership was set up to equip farmers to measure, manage and reduce on-farm agriculture greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. 

The Government asked for feedback on its proposal for a farm-level, split-gas levy for agriculture see Pricing agricultural emissions (Consultation closed 18 November 2022).

Find out about reducing agriculture emissions in the emissions reduction plan

Offsetting emissions through forestry

Forestry is a major part of the economy and plays an important role in helping us meet our emission reduction targets. It is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most important options to deliver low-cost carbon dioxide removals at scale.  

Find out about the role of forestry to reduce emissions in the emissions reduction plan

Find out and have your say about proposals relating to afforestation and management of plantation and exotic carbon forests [Ministry for Primary Industries website]

Forestry and the NZ ETS

Including post-1989 forestry in the NZ ETS gives landowners a financial benefit for the carbon their trees remove from the atmosphere. This helps encourage them to establish and manage forests in a way that increases carbon storage.  

For more information see Forestry in the Emissions Trading Scheme [Ministry for Primary Industries website]

Reducing emissions from industry

To reduce emissions from industrial process heat, the Government has implemented a:

The NPS and NES support changes made to the Resource Management Act 1991in 2022 (under sections 17 to 21, 35 and 36 of the Resource Management Amendment Act 2020).

Preparing and implementing national direction on industrial process heat is also an action included in the Government’s emission reduction plan.

It will complement other programmes, including the Emissions Trading Scheme and the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund, to reduce industrial emissions and support the transition to lower emission alternatives to fossil fuels. 

Feedback on the NPS and NES was sought through a public consultation held from April to May 2021.


Summary of submissions

Cabinet paper approving the NPS and NES

Regulatory impact statement

International carbon markets: Supporting cooperation under the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement recognises that countries will cooperate for higher ambition on climate change. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is about the many ways countries can cooperate to reduce emissions and increase climate change action. 

Under the Paris Agreement Aotearoa New Zealand has set a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of reducing net emissions by 50 per cent below gross 2005 levels for the period 2021-30.

To meet out NDC we will prioritise domestic action. We will complement this domestic action by accessing offshore mitigation with environmental integrity. We will seek a range of options for this. We will prioritise partnering with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. We will also explore reopening the New Zealand ETS to international markets.

Carbon Neutral Government Programme

The purpose of the Carbon Neutral Government Programme (CNGP) is to combat climate change and accelerate emissions reductions within the public
sector. It was launched on December 2020.

Find out more about the Carbon Neutral Government Programme

Read about the role of the Carbon Neutral Government Programme in the emissions reduction plan

National adaptation plan

The climate is changing and past emissions have locked in further change. The action we take today to manage the risks from climate change will have a positive impact on New Zealanders’ future.

The Government released Aotearoa New Zealand’s first national adaptation plan in 2022. It set out priorities over six years to help make our homes, infrastructure and communities more resilient to climate change.

The national adaptation plan is focused on four priority areas:

  • developing the data, information and tools to enable better decisions
  • driving climate-resilient development in the right locations
  • options to adapt to climate change, and
  • embedding resilience across government.

Find out about the national adaptation plan

Sustainable finance: Investing in climate change action

Sustainable finance refers to all investment that contributes to either climate mitigation or adaptation. The International Energy Agency estimates that global climate investments of US$75 trillion will be required by 2050 to have a 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 2°C.  

The Treasury and the Ministry for the Environment have initiated a work programme exploring how the public finance system can best address the funding and financing needs of Aotearoa New Zealand's climate transition.

Accelerating funding of projects that can reduce emissions

New Zealand Green Investment Finance (NZGIF) is one of a number of initiatives in Aotearoa investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The objective of the independently-operated NZGIF is to accelerate funding of projects that can reduce emissions. The Government has provided NZGIF with a $400m capital injection. 

New Zealand Green Investment Finance website

In 2021, the Government passed legislation making climate-related disclosures mandatory for some organisations. The requirement will apply to large publicly listed companies, insurers, banks, non-bank deposit takers and investment managers. 

Find out more on mandatory climate-related financial disclosures

Climate Change Chief Executives Board

A new interdepartmental executive board that provides oversight of the Government’s response to climate change.

Find out more about the board.