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What is New Zealandʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Last update: June 2021

Ambition gap

New Zealandʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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Displayed values
Reference year
−100%−80%−60%−40%−20%0%19902010203020502070
Reference year
2005
1.5°C emissions level
−51%
NDC target gross-net
−38%
Ambition gap
−13%
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions

*Net zero emissions excl LULUCF is achieved through deployment of BECCS; other novel CDR is not included in these pathways

Summary

In 2021, New Zealand submitted an updated strengthened NDC, increasing its emissions reduction target from 30% to 50% below gross 2005 levels by 2030 including LULUCF. The last NDC targeted an estimated level of emissions in 2030 of 68 MtCO₂e/yr, and the updated NDC 51 MtCO₂e/yr (24% lower than the last NDC).

1 CAT. New Zealand, CAT Climate Target Update Tracker. Climate Action Tracker. (2021).

2 Ministry for the Environment. Te hau mārohi ki anamata Transitioning to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future Have your say and shape the emissions reduction plan. (2021).

3 CAT. New Zealand – September Update. Climate Action Tracker. (2021).

4 Daalder, M. New Paris Target Might Actually Reduce Emissions, A Bit . Newsroom, (2021).

5 Gütschow, J., Jeffery, L., Gieseke, R. & Günther, A. The PRIMAP-hist national historical emissions time series (1850-2017). V.2.1. GFZ Data Serv. (2019).

6 United Nations Climate Change Secretariat. Summary Of GHG Emissions For New Zealand. 0–3 (2021).

7 Ministry for the Environment. New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2018. New Zealand Government. (2020).

8 Ministry for the Environment. New Zealand’s Fourth Biennial Report Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2019).

9 Woods, M., Parker, D. & Shaw, J. Government delivers next phase of climate action . Beehive. (2021).

10 Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment. Energy in New Zealand 20. (2020).

11 Climate Bonds Initiative. AUS & NZ Green Infrastructure list. Climate Bonds Initiative. (2018).

12 Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment. Energy strategies for New Zealand. New Zealand Government. (2021).

13 EECA. Clean and Clever Energy Progress Report. (2020).

14 He Waka Eke Noa Steering Group. He Waka Eke Noa Discussion Document, Steering Group Discussion Document to support Partnership Targeted Engagement Nov/Dec 2021. (2021).

15 Government of New Zealand. New Zealand’s Action on Climate Change. (2016).

16 New Zealand Government. Reducing government fleet emissions. New Zealand Government Procurement and Property. (2021).

17 New Zealand Government. Public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025. Beehive. (2020).

18 Ministry for Primary Industries. One Billion Trees Programme.

19 Beehive. New Zealand to phase down use of HFCs from 2020. Beehive. (2018).

20 Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment. Unlocking our energy productivity and renewable potential : New Zealand energy efficiency and conservation strategy 2017-2022. (2017).

21 Woods, M., Parker, D. & Shaw, J. Government delivers next phase of climate action. Beehive. (2021).

22 Climate Change Commission. _Ināia tonu nei : a low emissions future for Aotearoa. (2021).

23 Climate Action Tracker. New Zealand. Climate Action Tracker. (2020).

24 Woods, M. Major contract awarded to power NZ Battery investigation . Beehive. (2021).

25 New Zealand Government. A vision for hydrogen in New Zealand, Green Paper. (2019).

26 New Zealand Government. Building for climate change. Building Performance. (2021).

27 Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. Clean Car Discount overview. Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. (2021).

28 Ministry of Transport. Climate change — emissions work programme | Ministry of Transport. (2021).

29 New Zealand Parliament. Land Transport (Clean Vehicles) Amendment Bill 2021: Bills Digest 2654 . New Zealand Parliament. (2021).

30 Ministry for the Environment. New Zealand’s projected greenhouse gas emissions to 2050. (2021).

31 Including the residual methane emissions left from the separate methane target for 2050.

32 According to national projections, LULUCF emissions could reach -26 to -31 MtCO₂e by 2040. See the Government 2020 for LULUCF projection estimates.30

33 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

34 See CAT for full explanation.

35 Methane from agriculture and waste sectors.

36 According to national projections, LULUCF emissions could reach -36 to -41 MtCO₂e by 2040. See the Climate Action Tracker assessment on New Zealand (July 2020 update) for assumptions on LULUCF projections.

However, the accounting of the target is misleading and equates to 22% below 2005 levels in net emissions.1 It sets the 2030 net emissions target based on gross 2005 levels. Including the forestry carbon sink in 2005 and excluding it in 2030 creates a higher baseline. New Zealand also uses a different accounting approach for forestry which effectively further reduces the target.

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 will not meet its current NDC target following current policy projections. The country will need to consider more stringent emissions reduction to be compatible with the 1.5°C temperature limit. The New Zealand government is expected to release an emissions reduction plan in May 2022. However, the government plans to rely on international offset credits for meeting over two thirds of the required reductions under its NDC.2,3,4

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 2019 Zero Carbon Act. However, the goal is not truly net zero as it exempts methane emissions covered under a separate target, significantly weakening the net zero goal, particularly when considering that the agricultural sector is New Zealand’s largest source of emissions.5 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 any additional effort.31

In contrast, a Paris Agreement compatible pathway determines 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 2050 target and translates to 73% (68-85%) below 2005 levels. When considering projected LULUCF sinks, net zero GHG could be reached by around 2040.32,33 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.

Power

Key power sector benchmarks

Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS

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1.5°C aligned targets
Current targets

Key policies that would be required to accelerate the transition to net zero emissions in the power sector include phasing out coal and gas from the sector within the next few years. New Zealand needs to reduce its power emissions intensity by 94% from 2019 levels by 2030 reaching 10g CO₂/kWh by 2030.

To be consistent with a 1.5°C compatible pathway, New Zealand needs to transition to 100% renewable energy in the power sector by around 2030. This would require bringing forward the current 2035 target of 100% renewable electricity generation.

New Zealand’s power mix was 82% renewable in 2019, mainly met through hydro power. Ramping up and diversifying its share of renewable energy sources (e.g. wind, solar) and energy efficiency measures, while accelerating the electrification of other sectors, will be key to reaching 100% renewable generation. Sector coupling (integrating energy consuming sectors), through combining high levels of renewable energy penetration in the grid with the electrification of transport, industry and buildings can lead to high levels of economy wide decarbonisation and boost green jobs and grid system flexibility.

Buildings

Key buildings sector benchmarks

Shares of electricity, hydrogen and biofuels in final energy demand in the buildings sector.

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Buildings require energy for appliances, heating and cooling of space and heating water. Electricity in the buildings sector contributes to around 68% in 2019, which would need to increase to 85% by 2030, 92% in 2040 and up to 96% in 2050 to be 1.5°C compatible.

A 100% renewable power sector by 2030 could largely decarbonise the sector.

New Zealand could raise ambition and set targets for non-public buildings; introduce policies supporting energy efficient appliances; building renovations for energy efficiency; electrification of heating, cooling, cooking; and rooftop solar with battery storage.

Transport

Key transport sector benchmarks

Shares of electricity, hydrogen and biofuels in final energy demand in the transport sector.

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The 1.5°C scenarios show that electricity, hydrogen and biofuels can play a part in decarbonising the transport energy mix.

In 2019, the transport sector was 100% fuelled by fossil fuels, such as petroleum and diesel. As the power sector decarbonises, it will be a driver to decarbonise the transport sector, displacing fossil fuel-based cars and trains.

Hydrogen made from renewables could represent 16% of the transport energy mix by 2030 and up to 77% by 2050. Biofuels could represent up to 8% as early as 2030. These fuels are particularly relevant for long distance or heavy transport for example aircrafts, shipping and long-haul land transport.

The transport sector can reach full decarbonisation by 2060, following the low energy demand scenario.

Industry

Key industry sector benchmarks

Shares of electricity, hydrogen and biomass in final energy demand in the industry sector. Year of reaching net zero emissions Including the use of BECCS.

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Full decarbonisation of both industry energy related emissions and industry process emissions is possible by 2050.

The majority of the 1.5°C pathways show energy related industry emissions continuing to decline. Industry process related emissions decrease in all 1.5°C scenarios, but decline rapidly in the high CDR reliance scenario.

Renewable hydrogen can displace fossil fuels as a feedstock for industrial processes, and constitute 10% of industry energy demand by 2050.

New Zealand has implemented a range of industry related climate policies, including an emissions trading scheme, hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) phase-down, and a prohibition to install new coal boilers in manufacturing and production.

Footnotes