Skip to content

New Zealand Sectors

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

While emissions intensity has remained stable, CO₂ emissions of energy demand of the transport sector have been increasing by 17% between 2014 and 2019.

In 2019, the sector was 100% fuelled by fossil fuels, such as petroleum and diesel.

The 1.5°C scenarios show that electricity, hydrogen and biofuels can play a part in decarbonising the sector energy mix. The transport sector can reach full decarbonisation by 2060, following the low energy demand scenario. 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.

However, the pathways here underestimate the potential of electric vehicles which can repleace fossil fuel cars and trains, and will likely be the more economical option.

New Zealand has a target for government fleet vehicles to be emissions free by mid-2025 “where practicable”.16 They also targeted for 64,000 EVs registered in New Zealand by the end of 2021, supported by an EV subsidy scheme “Clean Car Discount” which was in force between July 2021 to March 2022.15,27 The Ministry of Transport sought consultation in 2021 on a draft policy investigating several decarbonisation pathways for the transport section including the phasing out of internal combustion engines (ICE) imports by 2035.28 New Zealand does not have CO₂ emissions standards for cars, but standards are under consideration by the country’s parliament.29

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 energy mix in the transport sector

petajoule per year

Scaling
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
2019203020402050200
SSP1 High CDR reliance
2019203020402050200
Low Energy Demand
2019203020402050200
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
2019203020402050200
  • Natural gas
  • Oil and e-fuels
  • Coal
  • Biomass
  • Biofuel
  • Biogas
  • Heat
  • Electricity
  • Hydrogen

New Zealandʼs transport sector direct CO₂ emissions (of energy demands)

MtCO₂/yr

Unit
5101519902010203020502070
  • Historical emissions
  • SSP1 Low CDR reliance
  • SSP1 High CDR reliance
  • High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
  • Low Energy Demand

1.5°C compatible transport sector benchmarks

Direct CO₂ emissions and direct electrification rates from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for New Zealand

Indicator
2019
2030
2040
2050
Decarbonised transport sector by
Direct CO₂ emissions
MtCO₂/yr
16
7 to 11
3 to 11
2 to 6
2058 to 2063
Relative to reference year in %
−59 to −31%
−81 to −34%
−86 to −60%
Indicator
2019
2030
2040
2050
Share of electricity
Percent
0
1 to 2
4 to 8
8 to 17
Share of biofuels
Percent
0
1 to 8
3 to 6
7 to 8
Share of hydrogen
Percent
0
2 to 16
8 to 61
31 to 76

Footnotes