Photo: Minehan/Ullstein Bild via Getty Images

Election 2020: The climate change and environmental policies in two minutes

Voting is under way in the New Zealand general election. Explore the main parties’ pledges at, but here’s a whistlestop tour of what parties on climate change and the environment. 

Read more two-minute policy wraps here

Everyone wants to live in a country with a healthy environment, but how exactly do the parties plan on getting there? And what trade-offs would the parties be willing to make?

Climate change and emissions

The passing of the Zero Carbon Act has taken some of the sting out of climate change policy because, in the end, it was supported by all parties in parliament except Act. However, there’s still plenty of haggling to do over the details of how it gets implemented. 

Labour and the Greens agree that the target of 100% renewable electricity should be brought forward to 2030 (however, the Greens are more strident in their demands). The parties also agree on an interest in pumped hydro schemes which, if successfully implemented, would effectively eliminate the need for coal-fired power stations. 

Meanwhile, National is focusing on the transport sector as the area the most effective emissions reductions can be made. They aim to do this primarily through support for electric vehicles. The party contends that agriculture should get more protection from having to make rapid emissions reductions, as it is a profitable export sector. 

Act would repeal both the emissions trading scheme and the Zero Carbon bill, and replace it with a carbon price. It also wants to repeal the ban on oil and gas exploration and reverse methane reduction changes. The New Conservatives would also repeal both the emissions trading scheme and the Zero Carbon bill, and supports withdrawing from international climate change agreements

Adapting to climate change

As the effects of climate change develop, some parties are looking at how to respond. Labour wants to continue promoting sustainability as part of trade deals as well as its work on emissions reductions from agriculture and construction

The Greens are focusing on wetlands, riverbanks and estuaries for protection as they sequester carbon and protect land from storms and flooding. The Opportunities Party (TOP) want to establish a fund for climate change adaptation while the Māori Party want to ensure the Crown works with Māori on adaptation plans, along with an increase in diplomatic support for Pacific nations in their calls for global climate action. 


The Greens are calling for an end to new mining on conservation land and limits on tourist numbers at popular natural sites. They also want an increase in funding for predator eradication and have focused heavily on marine conservation in their policy slate. The Māori Party agree with their stance on mining

National wants to establish two new national parks and consider new marine reserves. It also wants to allow some mining on “lower-quality” conservation land and more recreational and commercial activity to take place in national parks. Meanwhile, Act says its will actively encourage private sector tourism on conservation land

Labour intends to continue its programme of environmental protection jobs, a position the Greens agree with

Waste management 

Labour wants to standardise kerbside recycling across the country and also phase out some forms of single-use plastic. It would also put $50 million towards research into plastic alternatives.

The Greens agree on more standardisation of recycling, along with the phasing out a range of materials and waste streams that currently exist. This includes stopping food waste and e-waste ending up in landfills, and requiring manufacturers to make repairable products

Both Act and the New Conservatives favour allowing waste to be burned for electricity generation. 

Freshwater and pollution

National wants to review or repeal new freshwater regulations, relying instead on ongoing voluntary efforts by the farming sector to manage impacts. Act is in favour of repealing while the New Conservatives would relax them. 

The Greens would keep the freshwater regulations and set limits on nitrogen in waterways. They would also oppose irrigation projects that encourage intensification of farming. Labour would continue with freshwater policies that have been rolled out over this term. 

The Māori Party would support efforts to legally recognise the rights and mana of waterways, along with requiring the Crown to recognise Māori rights and interests on freshwater. It would also put a temporary halt on water bottling consents and develop a user-pays system for commercial water use

For more, see Forest and Bird Youth’s party scorecards focusing on conservation policies and Orataiao’s rating of parties according to climate change policies. 

Explore the parties’ pledges in more depth at Policy. The essential campaign dates are hereFor all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here

The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.