Reducing emissions

We're developing advice on reducing emissions, and moving towards our 2050 target of a net-zero, low-emissions Aotearoa

Emissions budgets and reduction plans

To achieve our climate targets, all our choices and decisions must be seen through a climate change lens.

Since 1990, Aotearoa’s emissions have increased, though they have been relatively stable in recent years. Aotearoa’s greenhouse gas emissions are about 80 million tonnes of CO₂e each year. CO₂e means ‘carbon dioxide equivalent' and is a way of describing different greenhouse gases in a common unit. Forests remove (or sequester/lock away) slightly more than 20 million tonnes of CO₂e each year.

As a government, as businesses, as workers. As homeowners, voters, commuters, consumers. In every role we hold we need to consider how each choice we make increases or decreases greenhouse gas emissions and better prepares me, my family, my business, my community, Aotearoa and the world for the future.

Every investment, every decision, every action, needs to consider its emissions contribution and impact on our progress toward a climate-resilient society.

This is also about opportunities - not just what we need to give up. It’s about how we use current and new technology and innovation to reduce emissions.

Emissions budgets

An emissions budget is the cumulative amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted over a certain period. Our role is to provide independent advice to enable the Minister to set emissions budgets. We don’t set the budgets ourselves.

Emissions budgets are multi-year emissions limits. They:

  • Are a pathway for Aotearoa to meet the 2050 emissions target
  • Total the emissions of all greenhouse gases permitted during the period
  • Must be met, as far as possible, through domestic emissions reductions and removals
  • Are accompanied by an emissions reduction plan setting out policies and strategies for meeting the budget.

From December 2021, there must be one current and two prospective emissions budgets in place at any one time.

For the budget period for 2022 - 2025, 2026 - 2030 and 2031 - 2035 the budget must be in place by 2021 and the Commission must provide advice by 31 May 2021.

The Minister is not bound to follow the Commission’s advice but must respond to the advice and explain the reasons for any departures. The Commission will:

  • Monitor progress towards meeting the budgets through annual reporting and reporting at the end of each budget period
  • Advise on whether any emissions may be banked or borrowed between emissions budget periods.
  • Advise on limits to using offshore mitigation options to meet an emissions budget.

Emissions reduction plans

The Commission’s role is to provide advice on the direction of the policy required in the emissions reduction plan. An emissions reduction plan contains policies and strategies to reduce emissions and increase removals to meet the emissions budget. A plan must include:

  • Policies targeted to different industries or sectors, to help them reduce emissions and increase removals. (Removals refers to the process to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and sequester/lock them away for long periods of time) 
  • A strategy looking at how all industries or sectors can meet emissions budgets and adapt to the effects of climate change
  • A strategy to mitigate the impacts that reducing emissions and increasing removals will have on employees and employers, regions, Iwi/Māori, and wider communities, including funding for any mitigation action
  • Any other policies or strategies the Minister considers necessary.

The Commission’s monitoring reports on emissions budgets will also assess the adequacy of and progress in implementation of the emissions reduction plan.

As with the emissions budgets, the Minister has agreed to extend the timeframe for delivery by 1 February to on or before 31 May 2021 because of Covid-19.

For the emissions reduction plan covering the budget period 2022 - 2025, the Commission must provide advice by 31 May 2021.