What is happening? (updated June 2022)

Aotearoa New Zealand is using a system of emissions budgets to meet our 2050 target. The Government published the first Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) setting out policies and strategies for meeting emissions budgets to 2030.

The two chapters of greatest interest to us are Chapter 9: the Circular Economy and Bioeconomy and Chapter 15: Waste.

Waste emissions are not just from landfills

The ERP focuses on reducing methane emissions from organics that end up in landfills. It also needs to include the long-lived GHG emissions generated upstream from extraction, production, transport and consumption of packaging and all our other stuff. The Commission’s general waste advice takes us in the right direction but the recommendations need to be more specific, holistic, and ambitious to harness the power of reduction, reuse and recovery strategies to reduce our emissions.

In November 2021, we made a submission on the Emissions Reduction Plan along with our allies Para Kore and The Rubbish Trip. You can read our full submission here. You can also watch our short video about solutions to waste & climate change, and watch our webinar about the consultation here.

Changing our ‘take-make-waste’ society to a regenerative, equitable and just society is key to addressing climate change. When we reduce waste, we reduce emissions. Aotearoa can make a just transition from a throwaway culture to a low waste, low carbon circular economy by transforming our relationship with waste. The waste hierarchy, which prioritises prevention, reduction and reuse, can be used as a ‘climate lens’ to help guide decisions and investment.


What we want to see

  1. Increase organic waste reduction targets

The Commission’s path sets a waste reduction target for organic waste to landfill of 23% by 2030 – we should aim higher. Government needs to mandate separate collection of organics (first emissions budget) and ban organic waste from landfill (second emissions budget) to halve food waste at source by 2030 (in line with the NZ Food Waste Champions 12.3 goal), and divert more organic waste to local and regional composting.

  1. Binding reduction targets for all waste streams

The Commission’s advice focuses on methane generated by organics in landfill. Government needs to set binding waste reduction targets in the Waste Strategy and the Waste Minimisation Act for all waste streams, organic and inorganic. This includes single use plastics and packaging, e-waste, textile and construction and demolition waste.

  1. Invest in reduction and reuse

The most effective way to reduce emissions from production, consumption and waste is to invest the Waste Levy revenue in systems and infrastructure that target the top of the waste hierarchy to prevent and reduce waste in the first place and grow the reuse economy. To ensure a just transition Government needs to invest a fair share in local, community scale solutions and SME innovators who are driving change.

  1. Measuring progress towards a circular economy

The consumption-based approach should play a key role in setting our emissions budgets and measuring progress. Consumption-based emissions data follows emissions through the lifecycle of products and materials, exposing both embodied emissions generated offshore and the upstream emissions cost of short lived consumer goods.

  1. Strengthen advice around product stewardship

Government needs to use effective product stewardship to create reuse and resource recovery systems that keep materials in circulation and make things last as long as possible. Products that cannot be effectively recovered and recycled or composted need to be designed out of the economy. Single use disposable products and right to repair should be a priority.


Why is this happening?

As the impacts of climate change become more obvious the conversation in New Zealand has shifted from whether we should do something about it to what we should do about it. In 2015 Aotearoa signed up to international carbon reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement. In 2019 the Government amended the 2002 Climate Change Response Act to create a framework for developing and implementing clear, stable climate change policy. The main goals are to reduce emissions so we can limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to support New Zealanders to prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change.

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019 does four main things

  • Sets greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets

  • Creates 5 year emissions reductions budgets to break the changes needed into achievable steps
  • Requires Government to develop and implement climate change policy
  • Creates an independent Climate Commission – He Pou a Rangi to help keep successive governments on track to meeting long-term goals.