Review of the 2050 emissions target

Every five years (starting in 2024), the Commission must do an independent expert review of Aotearoa New Zealand's legislated 2050 target. This review sits alongside our five-yearly advice on emissions budgets.

As a result of this review, the Commission provides advice on whether any changes should be made to the target or parts of the target.

We conducted a call for evidence on this topic from 31 March to 31 July 2023.

Our final advice is due to the Minister of Climate Change by 31 December 2024.

What is Aotearoa New Zealand's 2050 target?

Under the Climate Change Response Act, Aotearoa New Zealand’s domestic emissions need to be reduced to certain levels (or beyond) by 2050, and then maintained for every year after that.

Aotearoa New Zealand's domestic 2050 target is a ‘split-gas’ target that has three components. Collectively, these three components are described as ‘the 2050 target’ in the Climate Change Response Act.

One of these is a ‘net zero’ component. This means that Aotearoa New Zealand must reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases (other than biogenic methane) to net zero by 2050 and beyond. The Government can decide how to do this using a combination of gross reductions (fewer greenhouse gas emissions) and removals (capturing carbon dioxide by natural or artificial means). 

The other two components are focused on biogenic methane. These are gross targets rather than net targets, meaning efforts need to be focused on reducing the amount of biogenic methane added to the atmosphere.

  • By 2030, we need to lower biogenic methane emissions by 10% from 2017 levels.
  • By 2050, we need to lower biogenic methane by 24 to 47% from 2017 levels.

When can the Commission recommend a change to the 2050 target?

We can only recommend a change to the target if there has been, or is likely to be, a significant change (since 14 November 2019) to one or more of the matters set out in section 5T of the Climate Change Response Act. 

For each factor set out in section 5T(2) of the Act, we are required to assess whether: 

  • a significant change in circumstance has occurred, and if so
  • whether that change justifies a change to the target.

We will also consider (where they are relevant) the matters set out in section 5M of the Act.

What could our recommended changes include?

If the Commission considers that a change to the target is justified, we must also advise the Government on how the target should be altered. These could be changes to: 

  • what the target is
  • what gases, emissions and removals it applies to
  • when the target (or its components) must be met by
  • how much can be met by domestic removals or offshore mitigation.