A new climate-change law next year will bind Governments to carbon targets and set it down a path to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 - though agriculture looks set for a free ride until at least mid-2019.

And Greenpeace has called on the Government to back up its talk by banning all new mining, oil drilling and fracking consents - which Government officials say would cost the country more than $15 billion in lost revenue.

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a public consultation process to kick off in May next year involving all sectors including business, farmers, unions, Maori, economists and local communities.

The process will lead to a net zero carbon bill to be introduced next October. When it passes in the first half of 2019, it will establish an independent Climate Commission.

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The commission will set five-yearly carbon budgets for the Government to meet, and set out a 30-year pathway for future Governments and industries to follow.

In the meantime, an interim climate change committee will be set up in March/April next year to begin the commission's work, including looking at including agriculture - responsible for almost half of the country's carbon emissions - in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

That would mean the earliest agriculture would be part of the ETS would be mid-2019, and even then the Labour-NZ First coalition deal means it would have a free allocation of 95 per cent.

Generation Zero, Forest & Bird, Oxfam New Zealand and Greenpeace all welcomed the announcement, but Greenpeace called on the Government to ban all new mining, oil drilling and fracking consents.

"It makes no sense to outline legislation and a commission to transform New Zealand into net carbon zero by 2050, and then issue new oil and gas exploration permits which could see us spewing forth carbon pollution for decades to come," said Greenpeace climate campaigner Kate Simcock.

"It is extremely concerning that the Government's rhetoric about 'just transitions' appears to justify opening new mines and issuing new permits for drilling and fracking. Let's be clear - this would be an expansion of the industry, and not a just transition."

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says a net zero emissions bill will be introduced to Parliament next October and pass in 2019. Photo / Getty
Climate Change Minister James Shaw says a net zero emissions bill will be introduced to Parliament next October and pass in 2019. Photo / Getty

Ardern said new permits would be considered on a case-by-case basis, and the Government would change the permitting regime to take into account environmental impacts. She also wants to ban new mining on the conservation estate.

Shaw said the country's net carbon emissions were currently about 80 megatonnes a year. It was possible to reduce that to zero through measures such as planting trees, moving towards 100 per cent renewable energy, and electrification of the Government's vehicle fleet.

"We wouldn't have committed to it if we didn't think it was possible."

But he would not rule out buying carbon credits from overseas to help reach the zero target.

"I can't predict the future. Our attention and everything we are doing is designed around our domestic emissions profile, so we don't have to [buy credits from overseas]."

Ardern added that New Zealand would no longer buy "dud" credits from overseas.

The planet has warmed by around 1C since pre-industrial times, mainly due to greenhouse gas emissions. New Zealand has signed up to The Paris Agreement obligations to limit warming below 2C, and aim for below 1.5C.

Ardern hoped for cross party support for climate-change action.

"We cannot, every election cycle, every time there's a change of Government, have another conversation around climate change when it's got to be less about target setting, and moving on to our action plan and sticking to it."

Setting a net zero emissions goal and starting to set up the commission is part of the Labour's 100-day plan, as well as its agreements with NZ First and the Greens.

Q & A

What has been announced?

A public consultation process will start in May next year and a net zero emissions bill will be introduced to Parliament in October 2018.

What will the bill do?
It will bind Governments to meet a target and set up an independent climate change commission to set carbon budget targets every five years. In the meantime, an interim climate-change committee will be set up in March/April next year to begin the commission's work.

How much do we emit?
NZ emits about 80 megatonnes of carbon emissions. Plans to reduce it include planting trees, banning mining on conservation land, moving to 100 per cent renewable energy, electrification of the Government's vehicle fleet, and supporting agricultural innovation.