The Zero Carbon Act has a strong focus on transparency. Transparency will help the public understand what the Government is doing to address climate change, and whether we are on track towards a safe, thriving zero carbon future. Transparency promotes public engagement, accountability, and long-term certainty.

Long-term strategy

The Act requires targets and policy plans to be set in advance. As well as being transparent, this means the Government must take a long-term strategic approach to climate change. This will ensure that New Zealand’s transition to zero carbon is as fair and cost-effective as possible.
Certainty for businesses and communities

Setting targets and policy plans in advance also creates long-term certainty for businesses, communities and public authorities. This helps them to:

  • plan ahead
  • take up opportunities created by a zero carbon economy
  • invest with confidence
  • take complementary steps to reduce emissions
  • understand what New Zealand’s transition to a safe, thriving zero carbon future will mean for them.

How will the Act help the public to understand what the Government is doing?

The Zero Carbon Act will create legally binding transparency duties. The main duties are listed here. If the Government breaches any of these transparency duties, it can be held to account.

Transparently driving New Zealand’s zero carbon transition

  1. Transparent targets: The Minister must set emissions limits (‘carbon budgets’) 12 years in advance. For example, a carbon budget which begins in 2040 must be set in 2028. Additionally, if the Minister sets a carbon budget which is different to the Climate Commission’s recommendation, the Minister must publicly state their reasons for doing so.

  2. Transparent policy plans: The Minister must prepare a policy plan that will reduce emissions and meet carbon budgets. These plans must be set 10 years in advance. For example, a policy plan for the carbon budget starting in 2040 must be set by 2030.

  3. Annual emission statements: Every year, the Minister must publish a statement of New Zealand’s emissions. The statement must include the total emissions for each greenhouse gas, whether emissions have increased or decreased in the last year, and how many emissions have been absorbed from forestry and other carbon sinks.

  4. Emission reduction forecast: After setting a carbon budget, the Minister must publish a statement showing how much the Minister expects New Zealand’s emissions to fall in each year of that budget.   

  5. Climate Commission progress reports: Every year, the independent Climate Commission must publish a progress report about New Zealand’s zero carbon transition. This report will state whether or not New Zealand is on track to meet its targets, and highlight any problems with the Government’s approach. After every carbon budget, the Commission must also publish a report with expert views about how the budget was or was not met. The Minister must publicly respond to the points made in the Commission’s progress reports.   

Transparently adapting to our changing climate

  1. Transparent risk assessment: Every 5 years, the Minister must prepare a National Climate Risk Assessment about the effects of New Zealand’s changing climate.  

  2. Transparent policy plans: The Minister must produce an Adaptation Programme which addresses the risks identified in the National Climate Risk Assessment.   


Transparently supporting global action

Transparent reporting and planning: Every year, the Minister must publish a transparent statement about New Zealand’s contributions to global climate action. This must include details about New Zealand’s foreign aid contributions for climate change efforts, the source and credibility of any international carbon units purchased, as well as other contributions, such as technology transfers and adaptation assistance programmes.