insight | 2 of 3 in series

The path to a low carbon economy

08 October 2020

As the weather effects of climate change seem to intensify and public opinion hardens, both in our export markets and at home, the imperative is building on political parties to present a credible path to a low carbon economy. We look at the policies on offer this election from Labour, National, the Greens and ACT.

We have not included New Zealand First, even though it may once again be a party in government, because we expect that New Zealand First would do next time what it did this time – claim some policy trophies (Provincial Growth Fund, the investigation into moving Ports of Auckland to Northland), score some big funding boosts for New Zealand First held Ministerial portfolios, and act as a brake on “bad ideas”.

We are taking an issues-based approach to our Election Series 2020. Our first instalment looked at the competing strategies to get the budget back into black and we will conclude with how the parties plan to build back better.

Whatever the election result, the next government will come under increasing – and increasingly specific – pressure to reduce emissions as the reporting obligations under the Zero Carbon Act come into play and the information around climate risk becomes more sophisticated and more granular. The Climate Change Commission will present its first emissions budget on 31 May 2021 and the first National Adaptation Plan is set to be published by August 2022.

There may be further policy announcements to come as the election campaign rolls on, which we have not been able to capture here.

The path to a low carbon economy

Zero Carbon Act

Labour Greens National ACT
Maintain in current form

Maintain in current form

Implement emissions budgets

National would amend the Act to limit damage to the economy, including:

  • clarifying that the aim of the Paris Agreement is that emissions reduction should occur “in a manner that does not threaten food production”, and
  • strengthening the provisions that allow New Zealand to adjust our reduction targets to ensure we “remain in line with other developed countries”
Repeal the Act and implement a carbon price tied to the average of New Zealand’s five main trading partners

Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)

Labour Greens National ACT

Maintain reforms made this term

Commit to sufficient action to limit warming to 1.5°C

Price agricultural emissions

Investigate carbon capture and storage and recognise it in the ETS

Review the treatment of forestry

Provide carbon credits for wood products that store carbon for 50 years

Ban on new drilling offshore and onshore outside Taranaki

Labour Greens National ACT


Extend to new fossil fuel extraction permits onshore as well as offshore



Renewable energy

Labour Greens National ACT

100% renewable electricity generation by 2030 (five years ahead of current target) with a review at the 2025 emissions budget

$70m to investigate pumped hydro at Lake Onslow as a dry year solution, subject to a suitable business case

Ban new fossil fuel electricity baseload generation

Almost $20m in additional funding for a clean energy research platform

New National Policy Statement (NPS) for Renewable Energy Generation to remove barriers of development

100% renewable electricity generation by 2030

Green Energy Plan to promote solar energy

250 MW of additional solar capacity

$1.27b towards solar and batteries on all suitable state houses

Create a $250m Clean Energy Fund for local renewable energy projects

Simplify planning rules to make it easier to build wind turbines

Work toward ending fossil fuel subsidies

Create an RMA National Environmental Standard to support new wind energy generation, revise the existing NPS on renewable electricity generation to make it easier to upgrade existing windfarms

Work with Transpower to support faster grid upgrades with a fairer cost sharing regime, requiring collaboration between lines companies

No target but will “continue to support the development of new opportunities such as hydrogen, offshore wind, biomass and biofuels”

No target


Labour Greens National ACT

A nationwide roll-out of hydrogen refuelling stations to support the uptake of zero emissions vehicles

Increase funding to support businesses to use low emissions vehicles

Require new vehicles to meet fuel efficiency standards

Decarbonise the public bus fleet by 2035

Ban new fossil fuel cars, vans and utes whenever the UK does

Pursue the feebate scheme

Nationwide EV charging network

$1.5b for new “Cycle Super Highways” in major cities

Regularly update vehicle emission standards and introduce in-service vehicle emission requirements

Require commercially available diesel to be blended with 7% biofuel for the heavy vehicle fleet

Exempt heavy vehicles fuelled by hydrogen from road user charges

Invest in rapid intercity passenger rail across the country and support the electrification of the North Island Main Trunk Line

Exempt EVs from road user charges until at least 2023 and from Fringe

Benefit Tax until 2025

Allow EVs to use bus and high occupancy lanes

One third of the government’s light vehicle fleet to be electric by 2023

Ask MPs to cut flights to Wellington by 25%

Industrial processes and construction

Labour Greens National ACT

Ban new coal fired boilers for all but the highest temperature applications

$70m fund to help major industrial users decarbonise

Continue programme to reduce carbon emissions from construction

Ban new industrial coal boilers within the first 100 days, phase out industrial coal use by 2030 and industrial gas use by 2035

Treble support for businesses to replace coal and gas with clean alternatives

Amend Building Act to make new buildings zero energy by 2030

Fuel neutral approach which regulates greenhouse gas emissions but does not tell people what fuels they can use



Labour Greens National ACT

Keep working with farmers on Waka Eke Noa, the government-industry partnership to reduce emissions on the farm
$50m to develop a modular planning tool to cover all on-property requirements for farmers and growers

Price agricultural emissions at the farm gate

$297m Healthy Food and Farming Fund to help farmers move to low emissions agriculture

Levy on the use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers
Tighten the cap on nitrogen fertiliser in the freshwater regime

Split emissions budgets between biogenic methane and CO2

Scrap the 2022 mandatory review that might bring agricultural emissions into the ETS pre-2025

Continue Waka Eke Noa

Reverse agricultural methane and freshwater reforms

Allow genetic engineering

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