NZ signs Paris climate deal, but no plans to cut emissions - expert

(AAP / file)
(AAP / file)

New Zealand has finally signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement, joining superpowers China and the US in committing to reducing global emissions.

But the Government hopes to meets its targets without forcing people out of their cars or hiking power bills - for now.

New Zealand was the 63rd country to sign up to the legal agreement among countries to cut emissions, getting in before the European Union.

"We're part of the 55 countries that make up 50 percent of the world's emissions," Prime Minister John Key says.

"I think it was an important statement we ratified early with that group, and we've done that."

Climate expert professor James Renwick says it's a great step, but he's seen no plans for actually cutting emissions.

"I think it's a bit of a failing really, that we don't much policy around that."

But Mr Key says New Zealand has to have a different way of meeting the targets.

"We have a bit harder job than most other countries, where they don't have enormous amounts of renewable energy or they have heavy manufacturing to close down, which we don't."

So there are no plans yet to charge more for power or restrict cars on the roads, instead there's a method of meeting the target without reducing our own emissions.

"Trading in emissions units overseas, so essentially paying other countries to reduce emissions for us," says Prof Renwick.

"And that of course comes at a cost."

New Zealand is in the top 10 emitters in the world per capita and Prof Renwick wants to see more political will to change that.

"Not every country can trade in emissions because somebody, somewhere, has to be doing the reductions," he says.

"I think for a country like New Zealand, which prides itself on being 100 percent and clean and green, and we trade on that a lot - we should be leading the charge."

Associate Minister for Climate Change Simon Bridges says overall, Kiwis will need to change.

"I think over time it will mean change for New Zealanders," he says.

"I think we're going to see a range of things that happen that change our lifestyles."

New Zealand is putting its faith in science and technology to provide solutions for cutting greenhouse gases, and with the target looming and emissions rising, the pressure is on researchers to come up with some ideas in the next decade.