Poor productivity is hurting New Zealand's ability to address climate change, according to the Institute of Economic Research (NZIER).
A report from NZIER says the country's productivity had been lagging behind other OECD countries for decades, with people working longer hours just to stand still.
NZIER principal economist Bill Kaye-Blake said productivity should be a concern for environmentalists as well as economists.
"New Zealand needs policies that promote technology adoption and overcome existing barriers," he said.
The reliance on old technology meant greenhouse gas emissions were outpacing productivity gains.
"We need to retire old assets, and we also need more investment and better training."
He said the work has to be led by individuals and businesses, but there were things the government could do to help.
Among the recommendations was tight, strict targets for emissions levels, alongside a loose, flexible approach to emissions reductions practices.
Kaye-Blake said technology was a key part of the transition.
He said all possible approaches should be encouraged, as it would drive creative and efficient responses and improve the transition to a zero-carbon economy.