Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the Earth, trapping warmth from the sun and making life possible. Our planet would freeze without greenhouse gases. But too high a concentration in the atmosphere increases Earth’s temperature and causes the climate to change.
Our stable climate has allowed humanity to flourish. With a perfect range of mean temperatures, we’ve been able to stay in one place, develop agriculture and build civilisations.
The most urgent environmental challenge of our time
In just 150 years, industrialisation, deforestation, large-scale agriculture and huge population growth have pushed greenhouse gases to levels not seen in three million years.
Recent years have been the hottest on record. Extreme climate events – floods, storms, droughts and coastal inundation – are becoming more common. The knock-on effects of climate change are expected to include food insecurity, mass migration, change in ecosystems and spread of diseases.
New Zealand’s climate change commitment
New Zealand has joined other nations in signing up to targets to reduce emissions. Under the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change, New Zealand pledged to reduce emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Zero Carbon Act
To deliver on these commitments, Parliament passed the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019 (known as the Zero Carbon Act). This laid out the framework to net zero emissions by 2050.
Climate Change Commission
The Climate Change Commission is a Crown entity established under the Carbon Zero Act. It provides independent advice to government including five-yearly carbon budgets, and monitors government progress toward emissions and adaptation goals.