New Zealand

   

Environmental Policies

#17
Key Findings
Showing gains in several key areas, New Zealand falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 17) in terms of environmental policy. Its score on this measure has increased by 0.7 points relative to its 2014 level.

The new government appears committed to passing and implementing a zero-carbon policy, enshrining a climate-change target into law and creating an independent Climate Commission. Consultations on the issue are underway.

New Zealand’s largest greenhouse-gas contributor is methane from farm animals, with the country having the highest share of emissions from agriculture within the OECD. However, the existing emissions-trading program excludes biological agricultural emissions.

Water usage is another area of concern. The new government banned future offshore oil and gas exploration, but 22 existing permits are unaffected.

Environment

#22

How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?

10
 9

Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 2
 1

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
7
The performance of New Zealand’s environmental policy is mixed. In the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, the country slid to 17th (from 11th in 2016). Among the countries in the pacific region, New Zealand is at the top of the group for demonstrating “strong overall environmental performance.” However, in the group of OECD countries, it holds only an average overall position. The OECD’s third Environmental Performance Report, released in March 2017, lead to increased public concern over New Zealand’s environmental situation. According to the report, New Zealand’s strong economic growth comes partly at the expense of environmental quality, which puts the country’s hard-earned green reputation at risk. Central concerns include rising greenhouse gas emissions and declining freshwater quality. With regard to New Zealand’s record on climate change, it is important to note that the country’s position is somewhat unique. New Zealand produces a fraction of the world’s carbon emissions – 0.17%. At the same time, however, the country’s largest emitter is methane from farm animals belching. According to the OECD, New Zealand has the highest share of emissions from agriculture among the 35 OECD member countries. The main policy tool for tackling greenhouse gas emissions is New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme. However, the effectiveness of the scheme is limited, as biological emissions from agriculture and transitional arrangements are excluded.
Other areas of concern include water usage and management and greenhouse gas emissions. Due to strong resistance from NZ First during the coalition-building negotiations, a party whose voter support comes disproportionately from rural and provincial town electorates, Labour agreed to drop its proposal for a water tax on farmers. However, the two parties did agree on a tax on exported bottled water. Moreover, the government banned future offshore oil and gas exploration in NZ (part of the coalition agreement between Labour and the Greens). However, existing permits for 22 for offshore oil and gas exploration are unaffected.
Prior to the change of government, environmentalists accused the National-led government of pandering to farmers, especially the rapidly expanding dairy industry, who are among the National’s strongest supporters. The National party were also accused of failing to take a strong stance to support international environmental agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol. Since October 2017, the Green party holds ministerial responsibility for climate change issues. There is no doubt that climate change policy was significantly strengthened under the new government. Following the British approach and modeled on the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act, the new government seems committed to pass and implement a Zero Carbon policy. The government will seek to meet that goal by putting a climate-change target into law and by establishing an independent Climate Commission. On 17 April 2018, the Climate Change Minister announced the terms of reference and membership of the Interim Climate Change Committee. The cabinet has agreed to a process of consultation, beginning in June 2018, before the Zero Carbon Bill is introduced. The bill is planned to become law in 2020, though the carbon-neutral-by-2050 goal might not become part of the Zero Carbon Act itself.

Citations:
Environmental Performance Index 2018: New Zealand (Yale/Columbia: Yale University/Columbia University 2016) http://epi.yale.edu/downloads (accessed June 30, 2016).
OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: New Zealand 2017 (http://www.oecd.org/environment/country-reviews/oecd-environmental-performance-reviews-new-zealand-2017-9789264268203-en.htm) (accessed January 18, 2018).
NZ Herald. 2017. Labour’s proposed water tax on farmers to be scrapped. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11935003
Young, Audrey (11 April 2018). “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern bans new offshore oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.” New Zealand Herald.

Global Environmental Protection

#17

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, fosters their advancement and initiates appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
8
New Zealand has a mixed record with respect to its contribution to the global environmental protection regime. After initially committing to the Kyoto protocol, a change of government resulted in the decision to withdraw from the treaty. Nevertheless, the National-led government did commit to reducing emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. On the other hand, it was pointed out that the country would not be able to achieve this goal if the off-setting effects of its forestry policies were to be excluded. In accordance with the Paris Agreement on climate change, New Zealand committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2020 – the new post-2020 target is equivalent to 11% below 1990 levels by 2030. The government ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change in October 2016. It also announced that New Zealand would ratify the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol and continue to apply the Kyoto rules under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The formal ratification took place in November 2016. After the U.S. government announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the government reiterated its commitment to the Agreement
Back to Top