New Zealand and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

New Zealand is a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Find out about the purpose of this international treaty and significant agreements under it: the Kyoto Protocol, the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement.

About the UNFCCC

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) enables countries to collectively consider how to mitigate climate change and cope with its impacts.

The UNFCCC was adopted by over 185 countries including New Zealand at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It entered into force on 21 March 1994 and now has near-universal membership with 197 Parties to the Convention.

The UNFCCC did a number of important things:

  • It recognised that there was a problem;
  • It set a specific goal. The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is preventing dangerous anthropogenic (human) interference with the climate system. It states that “such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner;”
  • It put the onus on developed countries to lead the way;
  • It directed new funds to climate change activities in developing countries;
  • It set up a process to monitor the problem and action being taken to deal with it;
  • It charted the beginning of a path to strike a balance between economic development and mitigating climate change;
  • It began formal consideration of adaptation to climate change.

Kyoto Protocol

The international community recognised that more urgent action, with more powerful and legally binding measures than what was required under the UNFCCC, was needed.

Negotiations on a subsidiary agreement under the UNFCCC, known as the Kyoto Protocol, began in 1995. The Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2005 after 55 countries ratified it (including those responsible for 55 per cent of global emissions).

The Kyoto Protocol committed developed countries to greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012). Only countries that ratified the Protocol are bound to it.

New Zealand’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol

New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002. New Zealand’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol include:

The Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol

On 30 November 2015, New Zealand accepted the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. The amendment was created at the 18th Conference of the Parties under the UNFCCC, which was held in Doha, Qatar.

The amendment establishes a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol which runs from 2013 until 2020.

By accepting the Doha Amendment, New Zealand signalled its support for the second commitment period and for the ongoing climate change negotiations towards a new global agreement. [UNFCCC website].

Entry-into-force of the Doha amendment is triggered when 144 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol have accepted it. This threshold was passed on 2 October 2020 and the amendment enters-into-force 90 days later (31 December 2020).

More information on the Doha Amendment [UNFCCC website]

For more information see National interest analysis - Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol [PDF, 74.6 KB] [New Zealand Parliament website].

A number of Parties to the UNFCCC, including New Zealand, have tabled emissions reduction targets for the 2013-2020 period.

New Zealand’s 2013-2020 target

In 2009, the Government decided that New Zealand would take an emissions reduction target for the period 2013-2020 under the UNFCCC (the Kyoto Protocol parent body) rather than under the Kyoto Protocol itself.

For more information on New Zealand’s 2013-2020 commitment see About New Zealand's emissions reduction targets.

The net position report tracks our progress.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement was adopted by Parties under the UNFCCC on 12 December 2015. It commits all countries to take action on climate change and will take effect from 2021.

For more information see The Paris Agreement web page

Other decisions under the UNFCCC

Key milestones of international climate policy [UNFCCC website]

Find out more

New Zealand’s greenhouse gas inventory 

New Zealand's Seventh National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol 

New Zealand's Fourth Biennial Report under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 

New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets