New Zealand

   

Environmental Policies

#21
Key Findings
With a growing focus on climate-change policy, New Zealand falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 21) in terms of environmental policy. Its score on this measure has increased by 0.2 points relative to its 2014 level.

The government has passed a climate-change act that targets a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions (aside from biogenic methane) to zero by 2050. The country derives 85% of its energy from renewables, and its largest dairy company is reducing its use of coal-fired power.

However, the country’s large agricultural sector produces considerable methane and nitrous oxide gasses. The meat and dairy sector has taken a toll on freshwater resources, with more than 60% of the country’s freshwater resources heavily polluted. New water regulations will be implemented beginning in 2020. A new biodiversity strategy is also being developed.

The country has signed a number of multilateral agreements on environmental protection, including the Paris Agreement. Its current policies are not rated as consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, however.

Environment

#14

How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?

10
 9

Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.
 2
 1

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
Environmental Policy
7
The performance of New Zealand’s environmental policy is mixed. New Zealand derives 85% of its energy from renewables, and Fonterra, the country’s largest dairy company, is reducing its use of coal-fired power. However, in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, New Zealand slid to 17th (from 11th in 2016) out of 180 countries ranked, but nonetheless ranks at the top of Pacific region countries. However, in the group of OECD countries, it holds only an average overall position. The 2017 OECD Environmental Performance Review concludes that “New Zealand’s growth model, based largely on exploiting natural resources, is starting to show its environmental limits with increasing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.”

Many of New Zealand’s environmental problems stem from the country’s large agricultural sector, which accounts for more than half of merchandise exports – in particular, through the export of meat and dairy products. Methane and nitrous oxide gases created by farming make up around half of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the booming meat and dairy sector has taken a toll on the country’s freshwater resources. According to a 2014 report by the Environment Ministry, about 60% of the country’s rivers and lakes are heavily polluted and are unfit for swimming. According to experts, water quality has since deteriorated further; efforts to remedy this situation were established in 2019. A dedicated water regulator and new water regulations will be implemented from mid-2020, which the government expects will ensure safe drinking water around the country and prevent sewage and farm run-off ending up on beaches, in rivers, and in lakes.

New Zealand’s biodiversity is also facing a crisis. According to the 2019 National Report to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, 4,000 species are at risk in New Zealand – including 90% of seabirds, 76% of freshwater fish, 84% of reptiles, and 46% of plants. The government is currently seeking consultation on a new biodiversity strategy that would set goals for the next 50 years (Stats NZ, 2019).

In November 2019, the government passed the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Act that set new domestic greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets for New Zealand. These include: reducing net emissions of all greenhouse gases (except biogenic methane) to zero by 2050; reducing by 2050 emissions of biogenic methane to anywhere from 24% to 47% below 2017 levels; establishing a system of emissions budgets to act as stepping stones toward the long-term target; requiring the government to develop and implement policies for climate change adaptation and mitigation; establishing a new, independent Climate Change Commission to provide expert advice and monitoring to help keep successive governments on track to meeting long-term goals (MfE 2019).

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).
Al Jazeera, New Zealand unveils ambitious plan to go carbon neutral by 2050https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/zealand-unveils-ambitious-plan-carbon-neutral-2050-190508024012277.html
RNZ, Government seeks feedback on biodiversity strategy (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/395976/government-seeks-feedback-on-biodiversity-strategy)
Stuff, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are increasing (https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/climate-news/111979034/new-zealands-greenhouse-gas-emissions-are-increasing)
MfE 2019. https://www.mfe.govt.nz/climate-change/zero-carbon-amendment-act
Stats NZ 2019. https://www.stats.govt.nz/information-releases/new-zealands-environmental-reporting-series-environment-aotearoa-2019

Global Environmental Protection

#28

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, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced 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 contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
6
New Zealand has signed a number of multilateral agreements on environmental protection, thus signaling that these issues are considered global common goods rather than just domestic problems. These include agreements regulating toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases (e.g., the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol, the Stockholm Convention, the Rotterdam Convention), international traffic in hazardous waste (e.g., the Basel Convention, the Waigani Convention, the Rotterdam Convention), biodiversity and species conservation (e.g., the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals ), and natural resources (e.g., the Noumea Convention). New Zealand is also a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It signed the Kyoto Protocol (which sought to reduce greenhouse emissions during 2008-2012 time period) but did not join the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020). New Zealand is also a member of the Green Climate Fund but has formally pledged only USD 0.57 per capita (compared to Australia’s per capita pledge of USD 8 and Sweden’s per capita pledge of USD 59). In 2016, New Zealand ratified the Paris Agreement, thereby pledging to limit global warming increases to 1.5°C in the future. However, Climate Action Tracker rates New Zealand’s domestic measures as “highly insufficient,” meaning that “current policies are not consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, let alone limiting it to 1.5°C as required under the Paris Agreement, and are instead consistent with warming between 3°C and 4°C.” (see also Stats NZ 2019).

Citations:
Fyers, New Zealand’s outsized climate change contribution, Stuff (https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/climate-news/109053475/new-zealands-outsized-climate-change-contribution)
Climate Action Tracker, New Zealand (https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/new-zealand/)
Stats NZ (2019), Environment Aotearoa. https://www.stats.govt.nz/information-releases/new-zealands-environmental-reporting-series-environment-aotearoa-2019
Green Climate Fund, “Resource mobilisation” (https://www.greenclimate.fund/about/resource-mobilisation)
Ministry for the Environment, “International environmental agreements” (https://www.mfe.govt.nz/more/international-environmental-agreements)
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