14 Oct 2021

Government releases consultation document ahead of Emissions Reduction Plan

5:43 am on 14 October 2021

The government has acknowledged in a discussion document it may not hit its target to drastically cut emissions without help from business and the wider community.

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw speaks on the consultation document:

The consultation document, released today, contains new ideas from ministers and agencies to reduce emissions in response to the Climate Change Commission's report setting the roadmap for the country becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

It will be fed into the Emissions Reduction Plan due out in May 2022.

Other ideas have already been consulted and are not included in the document.

It lays out new ideas for meeting emissions budgets for the next 15 years, starting from the 2022 to 2025 period, and following in five-year increments.

In the document, the government broadly accepts the climate commission's emissions budgets, but there is good and bad news.

The bad: current settings and proposed new changes in this plan may not reduce emissions enough to hit the first emission budget's target.

In the worst-case scenario, reductions are only about a third of what's needed, and best case only two thirds.

The plan sets a number of proposals to close the gap, but many have not been quantified, and are works in progress.

The sheer complexity of the estimates and projections means there is significant uncertainty baked in, impacting the ability of the government to meet proposed emissions budgets.

The government said its policies will not, by itself, be enough to meet the full extent of any emissions budget. It wants additional proposals and commitments from the private sector in order to close the gap.

It also wants to know what help businesses and the community needs from the government to make reductions.

"There is no part of Aotearoa, no business, no community, no farm, no family, whose future will not be shaped in some way by the decisions we all take about what goes in the plan.

"This is why it is so important to get them right, and why the final plan needs to reflect the government's ambition, as well as your own."

And the good news?

The government said new information shows the amount of forest estimated is more than the climate change commission expected, which will absorb more carbon than forecast in the medium to long term.

Reductions in transport, energy and industry sectors are the focus of the first emissions budget, as this is where the most efficient and cost-effective reductions can be made in a short period of time.

There are few new plans for agriculture while work continues with the industry on the He Waka Eke Noa programme - due by 2025 - to measure and reduce emissions or be forced into the emissions trading scheme.

Plans per sector in a glance


Transport is the second-largest source of emissions - 43 percent of total emissions.

The CCC recommends reducing transport emissions by 13 percent by 2030, 41 percent by 2035 (compared to 2019). The report says the scale of the changes needed in the sector cannot be overstated.

The government said transport was on track to hit the first budget, but behind in budgets two and three.

Most of the ideas below are set to be begun in the first budget period.

Four key transport targets:

These will lead to a 41 percent reduction in transport emissions by 2035 from 2019 levels.

  • Reduce vehicle kilometres travelled by cars and light vehicles by 20 percent by 2035 by providing cleaner travel options, particularly in the largest cities
  • Increase zero-emission vehicles to 30 percent of the light fleet by 2035
  • Reduce emissions from freight transport by 25 percent by 2035
  • Reduce the emissions intensity of transport fuel by 15 percent by 2035. (Biofuels, electrification, hydrogen and other technology to all play a role)

Other key transport ideas:

  • Increase congestion charging
  • Better integration between housing developments and public transport infrastructure
  • Implement mode shift and mass transit options in large cities: Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown. Begin planning for other urban areas
  • Reduce public transport fares
  • Set a maximum CO2 limit for fossil-fuel powered vehicle imports. This is more stringent than the current clean car standard and discount which allows for high emission imports to be offset by low emission vehicles
  • Produce a national EV infrastructure plan
  • Introducing a vehicle scrappage scheme to support low-income New Zealanders shift to low-emissions transport
  • Work with industry to develop strategy to decarbonise freight transport. Significant reductions in emissions achievable through increasing use of biofuels

Energy and Industry

Emissions from these sectors made up 26 percent of total gross greenhouse gas emissions.

The ETS is a key mechanism to reduce emissions in these sectors. A rising carbon price discourages fossil fuel use, through energy efficiency improvements and fuel switching.

Some of the larger possible emissions reductions are in industrial heating and processing.

The plan suggests:

  • Setting a renewable energy target and strategy
  • Developing a plan for phasing out fossil gas in the energy sector
  • Developing a plan to decarbonise the industrial sector
  • Developing a mandatory energy and greenhouse gas emissions reporting scheme for large energy users.
  • Developing a hydrogen and bioenergy roadmap.
  • Assumes Marsden Point oil refinery converts to an import-only terminal in 2022 and the Tiwai smelter shuts in 2024.
  • Switch from coal to biomass starting in the first budget period


The government plans to work towards a ban on organic material going into landfills without gas capture by 2030.

Other plans include

  • To meet targets for waste, most communities would need food waste collections, or viable alternatives to landfill disposal for all their food scraps, as well as access to a green waste service where appropriate.
  • Reduce waste produced
  • Moving Aotearoa to a circular economy


At current projected emissions trading scheme prices, forestry will likely over-deliver on the sequestration needed to meet targets. In the medium term, it could be a low-cost buffer if other sectors of the economy under-deliver.

There is also potential to extend native forests to deliver a slower growing, long-term carbon sinks. The Government will investigate how to overcome barriers to planting and regenerating native forest.

Plans include:

  • Establishing long-term carbon sinks
  • Managing existing forests.
  • Work with Māori to develop and implement forestry policies.


Emissions from agriculture make up 48 percent of our gross greenhouse gas emissions.

The ongoing He Waka Eke Noa programme is where the substantial amount of work on emissions reductions is happening.

Other plans including accelerating the development of mitigations through a research and development plan. These include methane inhibitors and a methane vaccine. These actions are expected to have a bigger impact in later emissions budgets as farm practice changes and new technologies become available

The overall emissions reduction targets in a glance

Target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels.

These targets require:

  • all greenhouse gases, other than biogenic methane, to reach net zero by 2050
  • emissions of biogenic methane to reduce to at least 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030, and to at least 24-47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050.

The Climate Change Commission modelled the cost to the GDP in 2050 of reaching the emissions reduction target of between 1.2 percent and 2.3 percent.

The government's first emissions budget plan will be released in May next year - five months late because of the disruption from Covid-19, to bring it in line with Budget 2022, and to give it time to get public feedback on its plan.

Shaw calls for New Zealanders' feedback

Releasing the consulation document, Minster for Climate Change James Shaw said it was not a draft Emissions Reduction Plan, but an opportunity for New Zealanders to feed back on what should be included.

"Communities, businesses, unions, iwi, young people, faith groups, organisations and people from all walks of live have made it clear to me that they want to be involved in making the plan for how we reach a net zero carbon Aotearoa."

Shaw said we have to go faster and further to reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C.

"Inaction today will cost our children dearly, and certainly more than it will cost us to put it right now.

"In the three decades since the science of climate change was made abundantly clear roughly as much climate pollution has been emitted as from the start of the start of the industrial revolution up to that point."

He said politicians all over the world knew what was unfolding and had a chance to stop it but didn't - and this was last moment before the window of oppportunity closed "perhaps for ever".

Shaw said the plan to be published in May next year needed to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi and be equitable, fair and inclusive.

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