Climate Change Minister David Parker says New Zealand would continue to act to protect the environment but stressed business would not be expected to bear the full brunt of the costs.
Mr Parker said the Government would have to consider charging for emissions in future but no decisions had been made.
He said sectors where it was harder to reduce emissions would not be expected to do it as quickly as others and tried to reassure business.
"It's true that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have some moderate cost but we should not overstate it," he said in a speech to the Climate Change Policy Symposium in Wellington today.
"We should also remember that the predicted costs and risks of inaction are unacceptably high."
Mr Parker said measures to tackle climate change were part of the international reality and were not something New Zealand was pushing for alone.
He said multinational companies were already expecting New Zealand operations to minimise direct emissions because of the cost they would incur in future.
Last year the Government dumped plans for a carbon tax and has also faced National Party attacks that climate change policies would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Today Mr Parker said the pace and extent of New Zealand's response needed to take account of the national interest.
"It should be in step with what major emitters are doing -- including our major trading partners," he said.
Mr Parker said the Government was soon to establish a Climate Change Advisory Panel and was planning to make fuel efficiency labelling mandatory so consumers had that information when buying a vehicle.
His speech preceded release of an environment policy paper by the National Party's Nick Smith this afternoon which is expected to cover issues ranging from climate change to energy, the environment and water conservation.