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.

We all need to consider how each choice we make increases or decreases greenhouse gas emissions and better prepares us, our families, our businesses, our communities, 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.

To help reduce emissions in Aotearoa, the government sets emissions budgets and emissions reduction plans. To help inform their decision making, we provide advice on what we think the budgets should be, and the direction needed for the emissions reduction plan. 


What are emissions budgets and how are they set in New Zealand?

An emissions budget is the cumulative amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted over a five year period. Our role is to provide independent evidence-based advice to enable the government of the day 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
  • are set about a decade in advance - this helps to provide individuals and businesses with a clear sense of the direction of travel.

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

What do emissions budgets mean in practical terms? How do we meet them?

Emissions budgets set the maximum amount of emissions allowed over a time period. They are accompanied by an Emissions Reduction Plan, which contains policies and strategies to reduce emissions and increase removals to meet the emissions budget.  

What are emissions reduction plans?

The government creates an emissions reduction plan to help achieve the emissions budgets. The plan set out the actions and policies that govenrment will use to lower emissions. The Ministry for the Environment is the coordinating agency for the emissions reduction plans, and more information is available on their website.

What is the Commission's role in emissions budgets?

For emissions budgets, our role is to provide independent evidence-based advice on what the budgets should be to help us meet our climate targets. We don’t set the budgets ourselves. 

We also have a monitoring role, where we monitor government progress towards meeting the budgets through annual reporting and reporting at the end of each budget period. We also:

  • 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.

We provided our advice on the first emissions reduction plan and the first three emissions budgets in 2021 through our report Ināia tonu nei


What is the Commission's role in emissions reduction plans and climate policy?

For emissions reduction plans, our role is to provide advice on the direction of the policy required to achieve the budgets, and to manage the transition to a low emissions Aotearoa. An emissions reduction plan must include: 

  • policies targeted to different industries or sectors, to help them reduce emissions and increase the amount of greenhouse gas removed from the atmosphere
  • 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.

We do not set policy, or do detailed policy work – this is the role of the responsible government agencies under the emissions reduction plan. 

We provided our advice on the first emissions reduction plan and the first three emissions budgets in 2021 through our report Ināia tonu nei