Purpose and Principles of the Zero Carbon Act


The purpose of the Zero Carbon Act is to:

  • Get us to zero carbon.

  • Help us adapt to climate change.

  • Transparently support global climate action.

The Zero Carbon Act will commit New Zealand to zero carbon in a timeframe consistent with limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and striving to limit warming to less than 1.5°C. These goals were agreed upon by all countries under the Paris Agreement.

Targets and plans under the Zero Carbon Act must be set consistently with this purpose, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the other principles of the Act. 


The Act is based on principles of responsibility, intergenerational equity, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi). It will ensure New Zealand’s zero carbon transition is fair, cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, and consistent with Te Tiriti.

Here is an example of how the Zero Carbon Act will give effect to equitable principles. Under the Act, the Minister must ensure that New Zealand’s pathway to zero carbon is fair and cost-effective. “Fairness” is a broad principle which will include providing for communities that are particularly affected by climate change and by climate policies. ”Cost-effectiveness” means meeting the Act’s long-term targets in a way that minimises costs and maximises benefits to New Zealand. In particular, this means setting targets and plans that avoid passing the cost of transition to young and future generations.

The Zero Carbon Act will also give effect to other principles. These include sustainability and protecting New Zealand’s natural environment, a fair transition of the workforce to a zero carbon economy, and New Zealand’s responsibilities towards people relocating because of climate impacts.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) is a foundational part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s constitution. The Zero Carbon Act will honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and give effect to meaningful partnership between iwi and the Crown.

Te Tiriti creates obligations of respect, reciprocity, and redress for breaches. The Crown has a duty to actively protect Māori rights and the rangatiratanga (right to exercise authority) of iwi and hapū towards their own interests, including land, fisheries and taonga. The Crown must undertake full and meaningful consultation with Māori about important issues, such as addressing climate change.

All targets and plans set under the Zero Carbon Act must be consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This means decisions will be informed by tikanga Māori, Māori worldviews towards climate change, and other Māori interests. The Climate Commission will also be required to have expertise in these matters, and must build meaningful partnership with iwi.