30 April 2020
New Zealand’s Updated NDC Informs of Its Zero Carbon Amendment Act
Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash
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New Zealand has communicated a 2020 update of its 2016 nationally determined contribution.

The communication informs of New Zealand’s targets to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases other than biogenic methane to zero by 2050, and to reduce biogenic methane emissions to 10% below 2017 levels by 2030, and to 24-27% by 2050.

New Zealand’s independent Climate Change Commission will review the current NDC by early 2021 and advise the government on how to make it consistent with the global 1.5°C temperature goal.

New Zealand has communicated a 2020 update of its nationally determined contribution (NDC), stating that the country remains committed to supporting efforts aimed at limiting warming to no more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels and to building resilience to the impacts of climate change with a focus on its “Pacific neighbors.” Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, countries agreed to prepare and communicate an updated NDC every five years reflecting each country’s highest possible ambition and representing a progression “beyond previous efforts.”

In its 2016 NDC, New Zealand committed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, while relying on emissions removals in forestry and other land use and on the use of international market mechanisms, cooperative approaches and carbon markets.

In its April 2020 NDC update, New Zealand confirms this overall emission reduction target covering all sectors and GHGs, and informs of its 2019 Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act. The legislation sets:

  • a domestic target to reduce net emissions of GHGs (other than biogenic methane) to zero by 2050; and
  • a specific target to reduce biogenic methane emissions to 10% below 2017 levels by 2030, and to 24-47% below 2017 levels by 2050.

The law also establishes a framework for a series of emissions, regular measures to plan for the impacts of climate change, and an independent Climate Change Commission. The Commission is tasked with preparing national climate change risk assessments and reports on the implementation of the national adaptation plan. The Commission will provide expert advice such as on the quantity of emissions that may be banked or borrowed between two adjacent emissions budget periods, and on monitoring, including recommendations, if necessary, for changes to the 2050 target and emissions budgets. The Climate Change Commission will also provide advice on any necessary changes to the NDC in early 2021.

Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute, two non-profit climate science and policy organizations based in Germany, observe that the Zero Carbon Amendment Act strengthens New Zealand’s former 2050 target by halving its GHG emissions by 2050. Yet their analysis, captured in the Climate Action Tracker, still rates the country’s 2030 emission reduction target as “insufficient.” To increase ambition, they recommend including methane emissions from agriculture and waste, which represent about 40% of New Zealand’s current emissions, in the net zero emissions goal, as well as abstaining from carry-overs and moving quickly from framework setting to implementing strong policies to reduce emissions. 

So far, eight countries (ChileMoldova, the Marshall Islands, Norway, Suriname, Japan, and Singapore) have submitted their 2020 NDC communications, together representing 2.9% of global emissions. Based on the Paris Agreement, countries’ efforts are not only communicated in their NDCs but are also subject to various types of review, including: a review of implementation through the Agreement’s enhanced transparency framework; a review of compliance through an implementation and compliance mechanism; and a review of overall progress through a global stocktaking process every five years. It is through this iterative process of submitting and reviewing NDCs that Parties to the Paris Agreement seek to achieve the Agreement’s long-term objectives.

The first global stocktake occurs in 2023. It is expected to address mitigation, adaptation, and finance. [New Zealand’s Updated NDC] [NDC Registry]

By Beate Antonich, Thematic Expert for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy

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