New Zealand is "off track" in transitioning to a low-carbon future amid increasing international pressure to slash emissions, according to a Government briefing.
The inter-ministry Natural Resources Sector briefing to incoming ministers, released today, spelt out New Zealand's position and targets around climate change and carbon-reduction efforts.
Key challenges included undertaking responsible growth to meet international expectations, adapting to the range of expected impacts that would affect infrastructure, biodiversity, biosecurity and the primary sectors, and transitioning to a low carbon economy.
Although New Zealand had gazetted an emissions reduction target of 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, the country's emissions had increased since 1990 and continued to rise.
"However, we are off track in transitioning to a low carbon future, and there is increasing international pressure to reduce emissions," the briefing said.
Decisions were needed on the best policy mix for New Zealand to achieve the transition, which would include carbon pricing and regulatory measures to cut emissions in New Zealand and buying carbon credits overseas.
Climate change policy had strong dependencies on transport, energy, forestry and agricultural policy, all of which needed to be "better aligned".
The briefing described New Zealand's emissions as small globally, although the country ranked 22nd highest in the world on a per capita basis.
Reacting to the report, youth climate change organisation Generation Zero again called for a Climate Change Act with legally binding carbon budgets.
The group pointed out that projections in the report showed that under current policy settings, New Zealand's annual net emissions, including forestry, would rise rapidly to over 100 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2025 - an increase of more than 50 per cent above 1990 levels.
This is at odds with the Government's own unconditional emissions targets of five per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, the group said.
"These latest figures and warnings from the Ministry for the Environment show once again that the Government has no plan to reduce New Zealand's carbon pollution," Generation Zero policy spokesperson Paul Young said.
"Despite the increasingly stark warnings from climate scientists and the promises to do our fair share, it's all talk and no action.
"Not only is this morally reprehensible, it is economically dumb and it will cost us."
The Green Party reacted by claiming the National Government's climate policy was "failing New Zealand".
"These projections are embarrassing, they undermine the climate and our clean green image," climate spokesperson Dr Russel Norman said.
"We can do our fair share, but we need to start now."