Adaptation Programme

After preparing a National Climate Risk Assessment, the Minister must make a plan to address the risks that were identified. This plan is called an ‘Adaptation Programme’.

Safely adapting to climate risks

Every five years, the Minister must present an Adaptation Programme to Parliament. The Programme must address the risks identified in the National Climate Risk Assessment.

The Adaptation Programme must include:

  • The Government’s objectives with regard to the effects of New Zealand’s changing climate.

  • Policies which will:

    • achieve the Government’s objectives, and

    • address the risks identified in the National Climate Risk Assessment.

  • Timelines for introducing these policies.

The Adaptation Programme must give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and other principles of the Zero Carbon Act. For example, the programme must contribute to environmental sustainability. (See Purpose and Principles)

Why do we need an Adaptation Programme?

Safely adapting to climate risks is an important part of New Zealand’s response to climate change. Combined with the National Climate Risk Assessment, the Adaptation Programme will help councils and communities to better respond to climate risks in their region.

The Adaptation Programme will also complement New Zealand’s transition to zero carbon. Some adaptation measures are closely related to reducing emissions. Under the Zero Carbon Act, the two issues will be considered together. 

Different regions of New Zealand face different climate risks. Local councils and communities already play an important role towards building resilience and addressing the effects of New Zealand’s changing climate. Combined with the National Climate Risk Assessment, the Adaptation Programme will provide information, analysis and guidance to help councils and communities respond to climate risks in their region.

The Zero Carbon Act’s Adaptation Programme will likely be implemented through existing legal frameworks, such as the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Local Government Act 2002. The Zero Carbon Act’s high-level duties will sit above these frameworks.

The advantage of addressing climate risk through the Zero Carbon Act is the Act’s policy pillars of accountability, expertise, and transparency:

 

  • Accountability: Under the Zero Carbon Act, the Government will be legally required to prepare a National Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Programme, and can be held to account.

  • Expertise: The Climate Commission’s expertise, evidence-based advice, and long-term strategic approach will help the Government to better identify and address the effects of climate change. The Commission’s annual progress reports will also review the Government’s approach to adaptation, and help to hold the Government to account.

  • Transparency: The requirement to prepare a National Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Programme every five years will promote public engagement and understanding about the effects of New Zealand’s changing climate.  


The Zero Carbon Act will also ensure that the Adaptation Programme complements New Zealand’s transition to zero carbon. The two issues are closely related. Native forestry, for example, can address climate risks such as erosion and biodiversity loss, and act as a permanent carbon sink to reduce net emissions. Other adaptation measures, however, such as constructing more roads to vulnerable regions, may increase our carbon emissions. The Zero Carbon Act will recognise this strategic overlap and prevent unintended consequences by requiring the Minister to consider both aims when preparing adaptation and emission reduction policy plans.