New Zealand’s projected greenhouse gas emissions to 2050

The latest projections of New Zealand’ greenhouse gas emissions to 2050. How we are tracking towards our 2050 target of net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases other than biogenic methane.

 

Projections of greenhouse gas emissions as published on 29 January 2021

Projections update

  • With existing measures only, gross emissions are projected to gradually decrease from 75.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 2020 to 63.3 Mt CO2-e in 2050. This is 0.4 per cent below previous calculations of 1990 levels or 19.7 per cent below 2018 levels. 
  • New Zealand's net emissions are projected to decrease from 58.5 Mt CO2-e in 2020 to 23.8 Mt CO2-e in 2050, a 59 per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2050.
  • New Zealand's target accounting emissions are projected to decrease from 62.7 Mt CO2-e in 2020 to 39.4 Mt CO2-e in 2050, a 37 per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2050.

What the gradual decline in gross emissions is due to

  • Reduced energy use.
  • Land-use change from agriculture to forestry.
  • The further shift to low carbon renewables in stationary energy.
  • Increasing energy efficiency and electrification in transport.

Under target accounting forestry is projected to account for most of the decrease in net emissions to 2050, with relatively low decreases in emissions from the other sectors. Previous projections showed target accounting emissions decreasing to 47.5 Mt CO2-e by 2050. This is now 39.4 Mt CO2-e by 2050.

What we measure

  • Gross emissions include emissions from all sectors of the New Zealand economy excluding forestry and land-use emissions/removals.
  • Net emissions - these are gross emissions, plus emissions and removals from land use, land-use change and forestry, and our target accounting emissions. These are used for our United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reporting.
  • Target accounting emissions – these include gross emissions, with a subset of our forestry and land-use emissions and removals. These count towards our 2021-2030 Paris target.

The new emissions projections to 2050 incorporate information from New Zealand's greenhouse gas inventory which provides emissions data up to 2018.

The projections assume only existing policies, including a carbon price of $35 per tonne of CO2-e in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

High and low emissions scenarios were also calculated but are not included in this update, as these will be published as part of the Fifth Biennial Report. This data will be available if requested.

Methodological updates that have been used in the projections have not yet been applied to historical years. Base year emissions will be updated for New Zealand’s next annual National Inventory Report. The latest Inventory emissions data is for 2018, but projected emissions for 2020 were chosen as more relevant reference year in this summary.

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

BR4 gross and net emissions to 2050
BR4 gross and net emissions to 2050

Data file for the graph [Excel, 68 KB]

What the graph shows

  • Gross emissions increased from 63.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 1990 to 78.9 Mt CO2-e in 2018. With existing measures, gross emissions are projected to remain steady in the short term before gradually decreasing to 63.3 Mt CO2-e in 2050
  • New Zealand’s net emissions are projected to decrease from 58.5 Mt CO2-e in 2020 to 23.8 Mt CO2-e in 2050, a 59 per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2050. 
  • Net emissions are projected to peak at 65.7 Mt CO2-e in 2027 before decreasing to 23.8 Mt CO2-e in 2050.

Notes on the graph

  • Net emissions vary from year to year, as forestry goes through harvest and growth cycles this can fluctuate through time. 
  • Net emissions will go up before they go down because forests planted in the late 1980s and early 1990s have begun to reach maturity and are now contributing to higher rates of harvest for timber production that result in emissions to the atmosphere. 
  • For a summary of methodologies, key variables and assumptions used in the projections analysis please see Chapter IV of the Fourth Biennial Report.

How New Zealand is tracking as we head towards our targets out to 2050

Our international targets

  • 5 per cent reduction below 1990 gross emissions for the period 2013-2020 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 
  • 30 per cent reduction below 2005 (or 11 per cent below 1990) gross emissions for the period 2021-2030 under the Paris Nationally Determined Contribution.

Our domestic targets under the Zero Carbon Act

  • Net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases 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.
BR4 targets and projections to 2050
BR4 targets and projections to 2050

Link to data file [Excel, 28 KB]

What the graph shows

  • New Zealand’s target accounting emissions are projected to decrease from 62.7 Mt CO2-e in 2020 to 39.4 Mt CO2-e in 2050, a 37 per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2050. 

  • The gap between the target accounting emissions and the commitment periods shows how much more we need to reduce emissions by to achieve our targets (the level of ambition).

  • The updated projections narrow the gap between our projected emissions and the Paris and Zero Carbon Act targets, but more work needs to be done.

  • Emissions over the 2021-2030 period are projected to be closer to the NDC budget than the 2019 projections due to a revision to the methodologies and new GHG Inventory data. 

Notes on the graph

  • Target accounting emissions for the Kyoto Protocol Commitment Period 1 (2008–2012) have been recalculated using Assessment Report Four (AR4) global warming potentials for consistency of presentation.

Changes to rules

  • The rules to account for emissions and removals from forestry and land-use activities differ between the 2008–2012, 2013–2020 and 2021–2030 target periods. As such there is a break in the line for 'Target accounting emissions’ including between 2020 and 2021 when New Zealand adopts the accounting set out in our first Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement [NDC Registry webpage]. For more information see Reporting of emissions and accounting for emissions targets for our emissions.
  • A change in forestry accounting rules means that 2021 target accounting emissions are anticipated to initially be 68.9 Mt CO2-e before decreasing to 61.3 Mt CO2-e in 2030. If this rule-set is continued beyond the 2030 target, accounting emissions are projected to continue to decrease to 39.4 Mt CO2-e in 2050.
  • The rules on how New Zealand will account for emissions and removals from forestry and land-use activities post-2030 are yet to be confirmed. For presentation purposes we show the result when continuing the same rules as for 2021–2030.

Carbon budget calculation

  • The calculation of New Zealand’s 2021–2030 carbon budget is based on the latest available emissions data and projections which are subject to change. The details of the final methodology for forestry and land use are also still being confirmed. New Zealand will update how the target is reflected as better data and projections become available.

Nationally Determined Contribution budget

  • The NDC budget, and hence the gap between this budget and our projected emissions under current policies, is provisional and subject to change. The NDC budget will remain an approximation until the final GHG inventory for the 2013–20 period has been reviewed. The NDC budget will be finalised by December 2024 at the latest.

Source of historical emissions