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 10 March 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.

Projections update

  • With existing measures only, gross emissions are projected to gradually decrease from 79.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 2020 to 66.6 Mt CO2-e in 2050. This is 2.3 per cent above previous calculations of 1990 levels or 19.1 per cent below 2019 levels (see the methodological updates used in the projections).
  • New Zealand's net emissions are projected to decrease from 54.4 Mt CO2-e in 2020 to 35.0 Mt CO2-e in 2050, a 35.6 per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2050.
  • New Zealand's target accounting emissions are projected to decrease from 71.4 Mt CO2-e in 2020 to 41.9 Mt CO2-e in 2050, a 41.3 per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2050.

Reasons for the gradual decline in gross emissions:

  • 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 published in Jan 2021 showed target accounting emissions decreasing to 39.4 Mt CO2-e by 2050. This is now 41.9 Mt CO2-e by 2050.

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

nz historical and projected ghg emissions 1990 2050 using ar5 values
nz historical and projected ghg emissions 1990 2050 using ar5 values

Data file for the graph [Excel, 241 KB]

What the graph shows

  • Gross emissions increased from 68.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 1990 to 85.4 Mt CO2-e in 2019. With existing measures, gross emissions are projected to remain steady in the short term before gradually decreasing to 69.4 Mt CO2-e in 2050.
  • New Zealand’s target accounting emissions are projected to decrease from 74.4 Mt CO2-e in 2020 to 44.7 Mt CO2-e in 2050, a 66.7 per cent reduction on 2020 levels by 2050. 
  • Target accounting emissions are projected to peak at 76.7 Mt CO2-e in 2022. 

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 2019.

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

The projections have informed the development of the Emissions Reduction Plan.

The projections are calculated to align with international reporting standards under the UNFCCC. Emissions from Tokelau are included in the projections to align with the national greenhouse gas inventory.

Methodological updates used in the projections

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 are for 2019, but projected emissions for 2020 were chosen as more relevant reference year in this summary.

The next projections update will be published in late 2022.