In 2020, New Zealand submitted an updated NDC but did not increase the target ambition. The Climate Change Commission’s recent advice to government does not recommend a specific target, but that it should be “much more than 36%” below 2005 levels by 2030, leaving the decision to policy makers.
While the recommended emissions budgets are respectively 5%, 12% and 14% higher than the higher bound of the 1.5°C compatible range, the government is set to draw an emissions reduction strategy before end of 2021. It will need to consider more stringent emissions reduction to be compatible with the 1.5°C temperature limit.
New Zealand’s NDC target is a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels including LULUCF, estimated to be a 17% reduction excluding LULUCF from 2005 levels (or 67 MtCO2e/yr by 2030).
1.5°C compatible pathways for New Zealand require a 46% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels excluding LULUCF (or 44 MtCO2e/yr in 2030). New Zealand could meet its current NDC target following current policy projections, however, a Paris Agreement compatible NDC 2030 target would require more ambitious climate policies.
A fair share contribution to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions compatible with the Paris Agreement would require New Zealand to go further than its domestic target, and provide substantial support for emission reductions to developing countries on top of its domestic reductions.
New Zealand has legislated its ‘net zero’ emissions goal by 2050 in its Zero Carbon Act. However, the goal is not truly net zero as it exempts methane emissions, significantly weakening the target, particularly when considering its agricultural sector is its largest source of emissions. The target translates to 49-68 MtCO2e/yr by 2050 excluding LULUCF, which is only a reduction of 16-40% compared to 2005 levels, and could be achievable without additional effort.
In contrast, Paris compatible pathway shows that New Zealand’s remaining emissions (excluding LULUCF) by 2050 should be around 22 MtCO2e/yr (12-26 MtCO2e/yr), which is less than half the country’s target and translates to 73% (68-85%) below 2005 levels. When considering projected LULUCF sinks, net zero GHG could be reached before 2040., New Zealand has a higher than average residual level of greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 due to the high proportion of agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions.