Review on whether emissions from international aviation and shipping should be included in the 2050 target

Currently, Aotearoa New Zealand’s emissions reduction target (‘the 2050 target’) includes emissions from domestic shipping and domestic aviation (which are covered by the Paris Agreement). However, it currently excludes emissions from shipping and aviation to and from Aotearoa New Zealand. 

We are reviewing whether the 2050 target should be amended to include emissions from international shipping and aviation – and if so, how the target should be amended. 

In the provision of this advice, the Commission must have regard to the matters, where they are relevant, set out in section 5M of the Climate Change Response Act.

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

We will provide our advice on this to the Minister of Climate Change by 31 December 2024. 

What is Aotearoa New Zealand's current approach to these emissions?

The current approach to these emissions is through various international agreements: 

  • the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) leads global efforts to address international aviation emissions, and
  • the International Maritime Organization (IMO) leads global efforts to address international shipping emissions.

These emissions have not generally been included in Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, partly as it is challenging to assign emissions from these activities to specific countries.

However, some countries have chosen to address international emissions from aviation and shipping within their domestic regulation.

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.