New Zealand has made commitments to the following international and domestic emission targets.
- Domestic targets are targets that New Zealand has set as part of its domestic policy decisions.
- International targets are targets that New Zealand sets as part of its international climate change commitments.
Domestic targets under the Climate Change Response Act (CCRA)
- Net zero emissions of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions other than biogenic methane by 2050.
- 24 to 47 per cent reduction below 2017 biogenic methane emissions by 2050, including 10 per cent reduction below 2017 biogenic methane emissions by 2030.
- Our first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC1) under the Paris Agreement is to reduce net GHG emissions to 50 per cent below gross 2005 levels by 2030.
- We will apply the modalities, procedures and guidelines of the enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement for meeting this target.
- Our 2020 target was to reduce GHG emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 levels over the period 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020.
- This target was under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) while applying the Kyoto Protocol framework of rules.
New Zealand met this target through a combination of forestry activities and surplus credits from the first Kyoto period. New Zealand has submitted its True-up Report to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), and all remaining surplus Kyoto-era units have now been cancelled from the Crown account.
2012 Target (2008-2012)
In 2015 New Zealand met a previous target under the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
A domestic long-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction target is an important part of ensuring that New Zealand can make a smooth transition to a low-emissions future.
In 2019, the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act set into law domestic targets to:
- reduce net emissions of all GHG's other than biogenic methane to zero by 2050
- reduce emissions of biogenic methane 24 to 47 per cent below 2017 by 2050, including 10 per cent below 2017 biogenic methane emissions by 2030.
It updates our former domestic 2050 target, which was to reduce GHG emissions to 50 per cent below 1990 gross GHG levels by 2050.
The domestic targets under the Climate Change Response Act are point year targets. This means they are goals that we must meet in a specific year.
We will use emissions budgets as ‘stepping stones’ to guide us towards the 2050 domestic targets. The Government published the first three emissions budgets (2022–2025, 2026–2030, 2031–2035) in May 2022. This was accompanied by the publication of the first emissions reduction plan, which sets out policies and strategies for meeting the first emissions budget.
The Climate Change Commission is tasked with advising the Government on emissions budgets and monitoring its progress.
For more information see Emissions budgets and the emissions reduction plan
New Zealand has met this target.
Although New Zealand chose to take its 2020 target under the UNFCCC rather than the Kyoto Protocol, we decided to apply the Kyoto Protocol rules in our target accounting to ensure transparency and consistency.
We applied the target accounting approach which uses only a subset of all emissions and removals from the LULUCF sector that include forests planted post-1989, changes in emissions and removals in pre-1990 forests that result from changes in forest management practices, and deforestation.
We reported on the 2020 target in the net position report.
For more information on target accounting see the Emissions reporting and accounting text box below.
To show progress towards our international targets, we use the accounting guidelines developed and agreed by the UNFCCC for the relevant target. Each target period has its own set of rules/guidelines, and we follow these as appropriate for the target period.
These guidelines ensure our approach has credibility and integrity.
More detail can be found at Transparency [UNFCCC website].
Gross emissions include emissions from all sectors of the New Zealand economy, except for land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). This information can be found in the National Inventory Report submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Net emissions represents emissions and removals from all sectors of the New Zealand economy, including the LULUCF sector. This information can be found in the National Inventory Report submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Net emissions provide information on what emissions and removals the atmosphere sees in any given year as the result of all human activities in New Zealand. However, we do not use all of the emissions and removals included in the net emissions reported in the annual GHG inventory to account towards our emission reduction targets.
Target accounting emissions include all of our gross emissions, but only a subset of emissions and removals in the LULUCF sector – namely emissions and removals that are the result of recent and future forestry activities. This is used to measure progress towards our international targets. Target accounting is designed to incentivise emissions reductions and to avoid relying on actions that occurred before 1990 (such as forest planting in the 1970s and 1980s) that continue to result in emissions and removals today. These are the accounting methods agreed internationally under the UNFCCC to ensure consistency of approaches between countries.
Every country sets its own Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.
The main purpose of an NDC is to outline the contribution countries will make towards delivering on the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement aims to:
- keep the global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C
- strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change
- make sure that financial flows support the development of low-carbon and climate-resilient economies.
The Paris Agreement states that each country's successive NDC will represent a progression beyond the country's current NDC and reflect its highest possible ambition, reflecting its common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.
New Zealand’s first NDC (NDC1) was updated on 31 October 2021 and covers the period 2021-2030.
Our NDC1 target is economy-wide, covering all sectors and all greenhouse gases. In addition to containing detail on the scope and coverage of NZ’s 2030 target, the NDC1 is accompanied by information to facilitate clarity, transparency, and understanding that is requested from all countries under the Paris Agreement.
Find out more on our Nationally Determined Contribution.
Our international targets are responsibility targets, meaning they can be met not only by reductions in our domestic net emissions, but also (if needed) by using international units (emissions reductions occurring offshore but paid for by New Zealand).
For the 2013-2020 target, we can also use carryover units from overachievement on our 2008-2012 target (first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol). The Government has said it will not use any carryover units from the 2013-2020 period towards the 2021-2030 target under the Paris Agreement.
We report our emissions and removals for two different purposes:
- to compile a National Inventory Report of all of our domestic emissions and removals which we submit annually in April to the UNFCCC (see About New Zealand’s national greenhouse gas inventory)
- to show progress towards our emissions reduction targets (see the Target accounting guidelines text box further up the page). Information on target accounting quantities as well as international unit holdings is included in our National Inventory Report.
Forestry and other land-use emissions are included in New Zealand’s national greenhouse gas inventory under the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) category. While under the LULUCF category we report on the human-caused changes in carbon stored in all of our land area, most of the impact from LULUCF in New Zealand is due to forests.
Accounting for forestry is complex because:
- trees can both remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (as they grow) and then emit this to the atmosphere again (when/if they are cut down)
- a choice has to be made about what vegetation to count as forest, since it is impractical to track the planting and removal of every single tree and shrub
- there are different accounting rules for forests which existed before 1990 compared to those established in or after 1990. This distinction was created in the international accounting rules of the Kyoto Protocol (which apply to our 2020). We currently intend to use a modified version of the Kyoto Protocol for accounting for forestry towards our 2030 target (under the Paris Agreement). The detailed explanation is on the NDC Registry website.
Other government publications also provide information on New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. In each case, the National Inventory Report submitted to the UNFCCC is the ‘source of truth’ for production emissions.
Our atmosphere and climate environmental report
Stats NZ and the Ministry for the Environment report on the state of different aspects of our environment every six months, and our environment as a whole every three years. Environmental reporting is divided into five domains: air, atmosphere and climate, freshwater, land, and marine. The reporting helps us understand our environment, track impacts of human activities over time and identify environmental challenges.
Our atmosphere and climate 2020 is the latest environmental report in this series that provides information on greenhouse gas emissions and removals. This report relies on data from the National Inventory Report and reports produced by Stats New Zealand on consumption-based emissions (see below). It uses this data, along with relevant economic activities and emission targets, to provide key insights into our emissions and trends.
For more information see Our atmosphere and climate 2020
Stats NZ produces a wide range of resources on New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. To access these, see: New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions | Stats NZ [Stats NZ website]