New Zealand

Overall rating
Highly insufficient
Policies & action
Highly insufficient
< 4°C World
Domestic target
Almost Sufficient
< 2°C World
Fair share target
Insufficient
< 3°C World
Climate finance
Highly insufficient
Net zero target

year

2050

Comprehensiveness rated as

Poor
Land use & forestry

historically considered a

Sink

Target Overview

New Zealand submitted its updated NDC in November 2021, increasing its emissions reduction target to 50% below gross 2005 levels by 2030 including LULUCF. We estimate that the emissions level excluding LULUCF targeted by the NDC is 51 MtCO2e in 2030. A full assessment will be forthcoming shortly.

NEW ZEALAND - Main climate targets
2030 NDC target
Formulation of target in NDC 50% reduction in GHG emissions from 2005 level of emissions in 2030 including LULUCF.
Absolute emissions level in 2030 excl. LULUCF 51.43 MtCO2e
[21% below1990]
[34% below 2010]
Status Submitted on 4 November 2021
Net zero & other long-term targets
Formulation of target New Zealand has pledged to become net zero by 2050.
Absolute emissions level in 2030 excl. LULUCF 47 MtCO2e/yr
Status New Zealand announced to become net zero by 2050 and enshrined into a law
Domestic target:
Almost Sufficient

New Zealand’s domestic target in 2030 is not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit when compared to modelled domestic pathways. The target aims for GHG emissions to be 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 (including LULUCF).

The new target equates to around 51 MtCO2e/yr by 2030 excluding LULUCF. This is equivalent to 21% below 1990 levels by 2030. New Zealand needs to bring down its emissions level to 47 MtCO2e/yr for a 1.5°C modelled domestic pathway. We rate this target as “Almost sufficient”, moving up from previous rating of “Insufficient”.

The CAT calculates a 1.5°C domestic emissions pathway for New Zealand is 44% below 2005 emissions in 2030 (excluding LULUCF).

This rating indicates that New Zealand’s emissions in 2030 are not yet consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit but could be, with moderate improvements. If all countries were to follow a similar approach, warming could be held below—but not well below—2°C.

Fair share target:
Insufficient

We rate New Zealand’s target as “Insufficient” when compared with its fair-share emissions allocation. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that New Zealand’s emissions in 2030 needs substantial improvements to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit. New Zealand’s target is at the least stringent end of what would be a fair share of global effort and is not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort. If all countries were to follow similar approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C.

With the update in NDC in 2021 New Zealand’s fair share rating has improved from “Critically Insufficient” to “Insufficient”. A fair share target would require New Zealand to nearly halve this target to 32 MtCO2e/yr by 2030

New Zealand’s NDC target would need to be 37% lower to be a 1.5°C compatible in terms of New Zealand’s fair share. The current target is equivalent to 51 MtCO2e in 2030 where as a 1.5°C compatible fair share target would be around 32 MtCO2e. Substantial improvement is needed. Some of these improvements should be made to the domestic emissions target itself, others could come in the form of additional support for emissions reductions achieved in developing countries in the form of finance.

New Zealand’s international public climate finance contributions are rated “Highly insufficient.” A full analysis is forthcoming.

Our assessment of New Zealand's NDC update is here. Our full assessment is forthcoming.

Net zero and other long-term target(s)

The CAT evaluates New Zealand’s net zero target as “Poor”. An updated assessment is forthcoming.

2020 pledge

In brief, New Zealand has an unconditional target of reducing emissions 5% below 1990 by 2020, and a conditional target of 10 to 20% below 1990 emissions levels by 2020. The CAT calculates New Zealand will not meet its 2020 pledge when excluding LULUCF. The unconditional target is calculated to be 62 MtCO2e in 2020 excluding LULUCF. The conditional target is calculated to be 52-59 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF. Emissions are estimated to be 82 MtCO2e in 2020, which is 26% above 1990 levels or 65 MtCO2e (excluding LULUCF). However, the government suggests the target will be met, a conclusion determined by a number of emissions accounting practises.

New Zealand's Kyoto Protocol target for the first commitment period (CP1) (2008–2012) was to return its GHG emissions excl. LULUCF to 1990 levels (Quantified Emission Limitation and Reduction Obligation, QELRO, of 100% of 1990 emissions).

Under the Kyoto Protocol accounting rules applicable to New Zealand in CP1, certain land-use change and forestry activities provided credits that were added to allow GHG emissions excl. LULUCF to rise during this commitment period. In CP1, these activities resulted in extra emission allowances for New Zealand of, on average, 14 MtCO2e per year (equivalent to about 23% of base year emissions in 1990).

As a consequence of its large volume of LULUCF credits, New Zealand had a substantial surplus of unused emission units at the end of CP1. In addition to LULUCF credits, New Zealand used a large amount of Emissions Reduction Units (ERUs). There have been concerns over the environmental integrity of the units purchased to meet a significant part of its CP1 target (Sustainability Council of New Zealand, 2014).

As explained below, New Zealand proposed using these surplus emission allowances from CP1, which are derived in part from Kyoto LULUCF credits and acquired emission units from other countries, to meet its 2020 reduction target under the Convention.

In 2013 New Zealand put forward an unconditional pledge to reduce GHG emissions excluding LULUCF by 5% below 1990 levels by 2020. This pledge is complemented by an earlier conditional pledge from 2009 to reduce emissions 10–20% below 1990 levels by 2020 (Government of New Zealand, 2013). The government provided further details, including its plans to apply Kyoto-type accounting rules governing the second commitment period (2013–2020) (Ministry for the Environment, 2016).

New Zealand’s unusual decision to adhere to the Kyoto rules and subsequently ratifying the Doha amendments without signing up to the CP2, raises a number of legal issues, as the Protocol provides certain benefits only to Parties that have emission reduction commitments for CP2.1

New Zealand publishes a net position update to report on progress towards the emissions reduction target for 2013 - 2020. New Zealand’s April 2021 update anticipates the unconditional target will be met. The target to reduce emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2020 is calculated as a budget for 2013-2020, amounting to 510 MtCO2e. To meet the 2020 target New Zealand intends to use 109.2 million units from forestry activities and 23.1 million available units from CP1 (out of a total surplus of 123.7 million units), where one unit represents one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions as carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) (Ministry for the Environment, 2021b).

1 | The Kyoto rules New Zealand seeks to apply, broadly relate to: (i) The carry over of surplus emission units and allowances from the first commitment period; (ii) The ability to generate LULUCF credits during the CP2 period; (iii) The ability to purchase and sell Kyoto emission units from other Kyoto Parties during CP2; and (iv) Provisions relating to the carryover of any surplus from earlier commitment periods to the post-2020 period.

Latest publications

Stay informed

Subscribe to our newsletter