New Zealand updated its NDC in November 2021 with a stronger 2030 target. The updated NDC is not Paris Agreement compatible, and it is equivalent to a 38% reduction from 2005 levels excluding LULUCF.
The Minister for Climate Change requested the Climate Change Commission to advise on a 1.5°C consistent target. The Commission did 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. These recommendations informed the NDC update, which failed to achieve a 1.5°C consistent target. 1.5°C compatible pathways require New Zealand to reduce emissions by 51% below 2005 levels by 2030, equivalent to around 41 MtCO₂e in 2030 excluding LULUCF.
The target has questionable environmental integrity on two counts. 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. Secondly, New Zealand uses different accounting approach for forestry which effectively further lowers the target.
New Zealand released a consultation document on the first emissions reduction plan to meet its 2022-2025 emissions budget, seeking ideas for emissions reductions, with the plan scheduled for release end of May 2022. However, the government has been clear that it will have to meet as much as two thirds – or ~100MtCO₂e – of its target through buying international carbon offsets.
New Zealand emissions need to immediately peak and rapidly decline and it needs to ramp up its climate policy and targets. A key focus should be agriculture, as this sector is responsible for the largest share of emissions. Other key sub sectors include transport and energy use in industry as high emissions intensive sectors.
Long term pathway
In 2019, New Zealand legislated its “net zero” emissions target into law under the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act. The target aims for net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases other than biogenic methane by 2050. The Act also targets 24-47% below 2017 biogenic methane emissions by 2050.
Setting a more lenient target for the agriculture sector is not aligned to a Paris Agreement compatible pathway when considering the huge share of emissions produced. To align to a Paris Agreement compatible pathway, New Zealand should start reducing GHG emissions rapidly to around 16 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050 excluding LULUCF which translates to 81% below 2005 levels. In contrast, the current long term targets are estimated to reach 49 to 68 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050 excluding LULUCF, which is only a reduction of 16-40% compared to 2005 levels. When considering projected LULUCF sinks, net zero GHG could be reached before 2040.
Taking a slower pathway or delaying peaking emissions would require costly negative emissions technologies to compensate. Most of the analysed 1.5°C compatible pathways show a fully decarbonised energy sector by 2040 and contribute negative emissions thereafter. The largest share of remaining emissions by 2050 will be from agriculture. Paris Agreement compatible scenarios show agriculture emissions ranging from 22-36 MtCO₂e by 2050, mostly coming from methane, which need to be compensated by negative emissions