Bosses of 60 companies that make up nearly half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions have pledged to take a fresh stand on climate change.

The newly formed Climate Leaders Coalition brings together a range of heavyweight business players, including Air New Zealand, Fonterra, Z Energy, Contact Energy, Westpac, Spark, KiwiRail, Sanford, The Warehouse Group, Ngai Tahu Holdings, Vector and Ports of Auckland.

Another member of the group, SkyCity, will tonight light Auckland's Sky Tower in green to mark the new alliance.

By signing on the coalition, each of the chief executives commit to measuring and reporting their greenhouse gas emissions, and work with suppliers to keep levels down.

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The overall aim was to help keep future global warming within 2C – the key goal of the Paris Agreement, under which New Zealand has already pledged to slash emissions by 11 per cent below 1990 levels.

Further, the business leaders backed the introduction of a Climate Change Commission – now in the process of being established – along with the creation of law-enshrined carbon budgets.

Carbon budgeting is a proposed part of the Government's Zero Carbon Bill, which aspires to drive emissions of CO2 – and potentially other greenhouse gases – down to zero by the middle of the century.

The chief executives behind the new pledge saw climate change as an opportunity to innovate and access new markets, with many already overseeing projects underway.

The group's convenor, Z Energy chief executive Mike Bennetts, said he knew many companies were making their own progress on transitioning to a low-emissions future.

"But that still left a gap around what we could be doing more of together to increase the pace and scale of impact from our collective efforts," he said.

"So, it made sense to discuss those opportunities and commit to further action.

"At the very least that is a common commitment that we can all be held accountable for and provides other businesses with the confidence to lean into their own responses knowing they are not alone in doing that."

WWF NZ chief executive Livia Esterhazy said her group was "incredible excited" by the new stand.

"Globally, it's unprecedented for businesses representing almost half of a country's emissions to come together like this."

Victoria University climate scientist Professor James Renwick said while it remained to be seen what efforts the coalition would actually make, their state aim was "excellent".

Renwick noted the group was responsible for a sizable fraction of the country's emissions of carbon dioxide, from transport, energy production, and industrial use of fossil fuels.

"These are the sectors where emissions growth has been fastest in the past two decades, so it's exciting to see businesses tacking emissions in this area," he said.

"Combined with the recent announcement from the Farming Leaders Group that the agriculture sector is committed to zero carbon emissions by 2050, there's a real sense that attitudes across the business sector are changing, and fast."


It comes just a few months after the Productivity Commission made its own draft recommendations about how New Zealand could shift to a greener economy.

Those included folding agricultural emissions into the Emissions Trading Scheme, making mandatory financial disclosures about climate risk and a cross-party commitment to transition to a low-emissions economy.

The commission's suggested strategy generally involved replacing fossil fuels with clean electricity, and a major change to land use favouring large-scale new forestry plantation and significant growth in horticulture.

In the longer term, the commission says new technologies that emerge in response to higher emissions costs would offer more options.

Choices for the Zero Carbon Act, now being consulted on, included pushing just CO2 down to zero by 2050; achieving that while "stabilising" shorter-lived gases such as methane; or requiring all greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to net zero.