Climate change advocacy


5 min read

Reviewing the climate change targets Why is the review important? What is DairyNZ doing? How you can get involved Other climate consultations Submissions

Targets determine how far and how fast New Zealand reduces its greenhouse emissions. DairyNZ is advocating for fair and scientifically robust emissions targets and regulatory settings that enable dairy farmers to easily adopt methane technologies as they become available.

Have your say on New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets. Share your views with the Climate Change Commission before 31 May 2024.

Reviewing the climate change targets

The Climate Change Commission is reviewing New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets this year. Public consultation is underway as part of this five-yearly process, with the Commission providing its final advice to the Government by the end of 2024.

The Government will then decide if the targets should be changed, considering the Commission’s advice and other information.

In March this year, the Government announced that it will initiate a separate and independent review of methane science and targets for consistency with no additional warming from agricultural methane emissions. This is additional to the Commission’s review and follows a report submitted by DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers in 2023 to the Climate Change Commission that looked at the relative contributions of different greenhouse gases to warming.

What are emissions reduction targets?

New Zealand has several emissions reduction targets. These are an important part of meeting our international climate change obligations and are set out in legislation. Our targets require us to achieve:

  • Net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases except biogenic methane by 2050.
  • For biogenic methane (from agriculture and waste):
    • 10 percent reduction below 2017 emissions by 2030
    • 24-47 percent reduction below 2017 emissions by 2050.

Net zero means the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and the amount removed from the atmosphere. It can be achieved through a combination of emissions reductions and emissions removals, e.g. carbon sequestration from planting trees.

New Zealand’s target takes a ‘split gas’ approach, which recognises that biogenic methane does not need to reduce to net zero like other greenhouse gases. This is because biogenic methane behaves differently in the atmosphere and has a different warming impact.

Why is the review important?

Targets determine how far and how fast New Zealand reduces its greenhouse emissions. They inform the policies put in place to meet them. For the agricultural sector, the targets impact the level of emission reductions that farmers will be expected to make, and by when.

This review is important because it looks at whether the emissions reduction target is fit for purpose, including whether any changes should be made to the target’s timeframe, level of ambition, structure, or rules.

The Commission has conducted an initial review, which suggests that some key circumstances have changed since the target was set in 2019, and that the Government might be justified in considering strengthening it (or at least not weakening it).

The Commission has focused on the following changes to inform their initial position:

  • Global action relating to the action the world needs to take to limit warming to 1.5°C and New Zealand’s contribution compared to other countries.
  • The scientific understanding of climate change relating to the understanding of the impacts of climate change.
  • Technological developments relating to a methane inhibitor capable of reducing methane emissions from cows by around 30 percent, which is now widely available overseas (but not yet in New Zealand).
  • The principal risks associated with emissions removals relating to risks of forestry.

The Commission has not analysed in detail what biogenic methane emissions would result under a no additional warming approach, as they consider this would result in weakening the target.

The Commission is calling for input from the public about these issues, impacts and evidence to determine whether these changes justify a change in the target.

What is DairyNZ doing?

DairyNZ is committed to dairy farming playing its part in transitioning to a low-emissions economy alongside the rest of New Zealand. We are advocating for fair and scientifically robust emissions reduction targets that account for the warming impact of methane.

We believe the target must reflect the latest science, consider what other countries are doing, the mitigation technologies and tools available, and the economic, social, and cultural impacts.

We also believe an accurate picture of the warming impact of methane is critical to inform the target review. Understanding the warming impacts of emissions will better inform New Zealand’s contribution towards limiting the impacts of climate change and allow policy decisions around burden sharing to take place transparently.

DairyNZ is engaged in the review process both with the Commission and the Government. More details on our work on targets can be found here: Kiwi farmers need science-led methane review.

How you can get involved

We encourage farmers to share their perspectives with the Commission, especially to help them understand the complexities of reducing emissions on farm.

Submissions are open until 31 May 2024. For more, see the Commission’s website.

In person events for the agricultural sector are also being held in some regions between 22 April and 14 May. See details on the Climate Change Commission’s website.

Other climate consultations underway

Alongside the review of the emissions reduction targets, the Commission is consulting on two other major pieces of work:

Fourth emissions budget

New Zealand’s climate change legislation requires the Government to use a system of five-yearly emissions ‘budgets’ to meet the 2050 target. The Government published the first three budgets in May 2022, based on advice from the Climate Change Commission. These cover the periods 2022-2025, 2026-2030, and 2031-2035, and set limits on emissions from different parts of the economy like agriculture, transport, and energy. Progress is monitored by the Commission.

The Commission is consulting on its draft advice to the Government regarding the fourth emissions budget, for the period 2036-2040. As part of this, it has proposed a reduction in agricultural emissions of 24 percent by 2040, compared to 2021.

The Commission considers this would primarily be achieved by farmers using methane-reducing technologies (which are not currently available), as well as reducing stocking rates (23 percent for dairy by 2050, compared to 2021), and ongoing conversion to horticulture.

The Commission has suggested these reductions could be achieved while maintaining milk solids production and revenue at today’s levels out to 2040. The Commission also believes that New Zealand can achieve the 24-47 percent reductions in methane needed to meet the 2050 target.

We believe the Commission has been overly optimistic in its assumptions regarding the availability and uptake of methane-reducing technologies and farm system change. More work is needed to highlight the realities of reducing emissions in New Zealand’s pastoral farming system, and to ensure that farmers have access to cost-effective, practical tools to reduce emissions.

We encourage farmers to engage in this consultation process and share their experiences in reducing on-farm emissions.

International shipping and aviation

New Zealand’s emissions reduction target includes emissions from domestic shipping and aviation but excludes emissions from international shipping and aviation. Global action to address these emissions is through international agreements. However, major economies like the EU, UK and USA are proactively including these emissions in their domestic targets and/or emissions trading schemes.

The Commission is required to advise the Government on whether New Zealand should do this too. Several options are put forward for public consideration, although each has trade-offs.

Previously DairyNZ has submitted that international shipping and aviation should not be included in New Zealand’s domestic targets. This is because of the global nature of these industries. However, if they are to be included, further work is needed to assess the implications for agriculture, particularly if the cost to reduce emissions is passed on to farmers.

We encourage farmers to share their views with the Commission. For more, see the Commission’s consultation website.


DairyNZ submission to the Climate Change Commission on fourth emissions budget period; international shipping and aviation emissions; and review of 2050 emissions reduction target

PDF Submission 358 KB

DairyNZ submission on Biodiversity Credit consultation Nov 2023

PDF Submission 846 KB

Joint letter to Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on Target Review Oct 2023

PDF Submission 218 KB

Joint submission to Climate Change Commission on Target Review Sept 2023

PDF Submission 6.8 MB

DairyNZ Submission on the deferral of NZ ETS reporting obligations for animals – farmer activities (5 September 2023)

PDF Submission 324 KB

DairyNZ submisssion on ETS Review August 2023

PDF Submission 236 KB

Submission on Climate Change Commission on second Emissions Reduction Plan June 2023

PDF Submission 204 KB

DairyNZ submission on Government's Agricultural Pricing Proposal (November 2022)

PDF Submission 857 KB

DairyNZ submission on Managing exotic afforestation incentives (April 2022)

PDF Submission 302 KB

Joint Chairs letter to Ministers regarding fully adopting a split gas approach to monitoring and reporting on the warming impacts of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and associated Nature article (April 2022).

PDF Submission 198 KB

He Waka Eke Noa, Agricultural Emissions and COP26 - Joint letter to ministers (19 October 2021)

PDF Submission 244 KB

Submission to the ministry of foreign affairs and trade: Consultation on New Zealand’s approach to the 2021 international climate change negotiations (30 August 2021)

PDF Submission 370 KB

DairyNZ Submission: Draft advice on the second emissions reduction plan

PDF Submission 208kb

Nature article on split gas approach to measuring and reporting

PDF Submission 1mb
Last updated: Apr 2024
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