Emissions Reduction Plan released: The key actions, numbers behind NZ's climate action

Monday is the most significant day in New Zealand's journey to combat climate change, deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says. 

It saw the release of the Government's first Emissions Reduction Plan which reveals how emissions will be reduced over the coming decades as the country targets net-zero by 2050.

Robertson led the release at an event on Monday alongside Climate Change Minister James Shaw, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods, Transport Minister Michael Wood and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wasn't present as she's isolating at home with COVID-19.

The plan contains more than 300 actions and covers transport, energy, building, agriculture, forestry, and waste. That's our entire economy and society, Robertson said, and will require collaboration from government, councils, community organisations and everyday Kiwis.

Key actions:

The plan will help New Zealand meet its emissions budgets, which were released last Monday, with the first budget (2022-2025) creating a ceiling of 290 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gasses.

That averages out at 72.4 megatonnes per year, two megatonnes per year less than the five-year average leading up to this point and 3.1 megatonnes less than the emissions projected for between 2022 and 2025. 

The Emissions Reduction Plan shows the first budget can be met if the actions are implemented with high-impact. 

"Meeting the first emissions budget of 290 Mt [carbon dioxide equivalent] for 2022-2025 is currently estimated to require an additional reduction of 11.5 Mt [carbon dioxide equivalent], compared with how emissions are tracking," the plan says.

"Baseline projected emissions are already tracking down under current policy settings. The additional emissions reductions needed to meet the first emissions budget amount to around a further 4 percent reduction."

The plan will lead to estimated emissions reductions during the first budget period of:

  • From Transport: 1.7 to 1.9 Mt carbon dioxide equivalent
  • From Energy: 2.7 to 6.2 Mt carbon dioxide equivalent 
  • From Agriculture: 0.3 to 2.7 Mt carbon dioxide equivalent  
  • From Building and Construction: 0.9 to 1.7 Mt carbon dioxide equivalent

Forestry and waste sector reductions will also contribute.

So how are we paying for it? 

In December, the Government established the Climate Emergency Fund (CERF) with $4.5 billion, which comes from Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) revenue. 

Robertson revealed on Monday that under Budget 2022, an initial $2.9 billion is being allocated to kickstart emissions reduction. Transport is getting a big portion of that - $1.2 billion - while Energy gets about $692 million and $380 million for Agriculture.

"We expect to review the size of CEF alongside the main Budget allowances as necessary to help achieve New Zealand's climate objectives," the Finance Minister said.

"This initial allocation is a down payment on the action that will need to be taken over the coming decades to halt climate change."

In a written statement, Ardern said it was a "landmark day" in New Zealand's transition to a low-emissions future with the release of an "achievable" plan. 

"We've all seen the recent reports on sea level rise and its impact right here in New Zealand," she said. "We cannot leave the issue of climate change until it's too late to fix."

"The Emissions Reduction Plan delivers the greatest opportunity we've had in decades to address climate change, but also move to a high-wage, low-emissions economy that provides greater economic security by creating jobs, upgrading the country to run on more clean energy, supporting nature, and improving infrastructure."

Ardern said addressing climate change will also bring down the cost of living.

"Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels will shield households from the volatility of international price hikes while reducing transport and energy bills," the Prime Minister said.

"Households are already seeing the impact of escalating petrol prices and this plan sets out practical ways to cut power, transport and other costs by taking climate-friendly actions."