New Zealand’s GHG emissions profile, including sector emissions, have remained fairly consistent for the past decade, indicating that little effort has been made to reduce GHGs. While the power sector emissions have seen a decrease, emissions have shifted to transport and industry energy use which have seen a growth of 16% and 45% respectively between 2009 and 2019.6
New Zealand’s GHG emissions (excluding LULUCF) amounted to 79 MtCO₂e in 2020, with half produced by the agriculture sector. The main source of agricultural emissions is enteric fermentation, followed by agricultural soils and manure management.7 New Zealand’s economy is dependent on agricultural exports (especially dairy), and emissions in this sector are driven by ruminant livestock populations.7
The energy sector is the second largest emitting sector contributing over 40% of total GHG emissions, with transport accounting for half of the sector’s emissions, followed by power, energy use in industry, buildings and fugitive emissions.
The industry sector accounts for 6% of GHG emissions, and the waste sector accounts for 5%.
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.
New Zealandʼs current GHG emissions
- Industry (energy use)
- Fugitive emissions
- Industry (processes)
Sectors by gas
New Zealand has the potential to become energy independent by phasing out fossil fuels but unabated fossil fuels accounts for 59% of the current total primary energy supply (TPES), whereas renewables account for 41%.
Transport accounts for the largest share of emissions in the energy sector, particularly road transportation.8
The second largest contributor to energy sector emissions is energy use in industry. Emissions increases in this subsector are the result of manufacturing industries and construction, mainly “chemicals”, and “food processing, beverage and tobacco” categories.8
The government plans to ban new coal boilers by the end of 2021 and proposes phasing out existing coal boilers by 2037.9 As an example, coal boilers are used for drying wood or milk powder. The dairy industry is one of the country’s largest coal users. The proposal has exceptions such as for use in steel and chemical production.
The third largest contributor to energy sector emissions is the power sector, currently dominated by renewables at 81%, whereas unabated fossil fuels account for 19% of the power mix. New Zealand has a number of energy related strategies, including the Emissions Trading Scheme which incentivises renewables by requiring fossil fuel generators to purchase and surrender emissions units.
Natural gas is the main fossil fuel in the power sector representing 16%, with 3% generated by coal. Hydro power is the main renewable energy source for electricity generation followed by geothermal. Reliance on hydro power creates vulnerabilities in the power system subject to rainfall patterns.10
New Zealand’s pipeline of renewable energy projects are mainly geothermal and wind.11 It also has targets to reach 90% and 100% of total electricity generation from renewable energy by 2025 and 2035, respectively, but few policies are in place to achieve this.12 Renewable energy can be ramped up with a diversified approach focusing on a number of technologies to reduce the risks associated with overreliance on one technology.
The country has an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) with a strategic focus on businesses, transport, housing, government leadership and society engagement.13 The programmes implemented by the EECA have an estimated mitigation impact of 3 MtCO₂e in 2020.8
New Zealand has a hydrogen vision focusing on green hydrogen and is developing a hydrogen roadmap.12 New Zealand could further decarbonise the energy sector across the energy, transport and industry sectors if the roadmap proves effective.
Beyond the energy sector, and considering the large impact of the agriculture sector on emissions, it is important to implement climate policies in the agriculture sector or utilise emissions reduction technologies in other sectors to compensate. The agriculture sector is not covered by the NZ ETS. The government and agriculture sector have partnered to explore options for an agriculture pricing system with final policy recommendations expected in April 2022.14 Modelling suggests the prices suggested would lead to less than 1% reductions in agriculture emissions below 2017 levels.14
Targets and commitments
- In 2021 the government updated its reduction target to 50% below gross 2005 levels by 2030 including LULUCF. Its target is based on controversial accounting methods, and equates to a reduction in net emissions of 22% below 2005 levels by 20301. Excluding LULUCF this is 38% below 2005 by 2030.1
- International market mechanisms, cooperative approaches and carbon markets.
- Net zero emissions for all greenhouse gases except biogenic methane (methane emissions from agriculture and waste) by 2050.
- 24-47% reduction below 2017 biogenic methane emissions by 2050, including 10% reduction below 2017 biogenic methane emissions by 2030.
Greenhouse gas coverageCO₂CH₄PFCsNF₃HFCsN₂OSF₆
- The government plans to ban new coal boilers by the end of 2021.9
- Plant one billion trees by 2030.18