International response to climate change

New Zealand takes pride in its active role in international climate change discussions. MPI is part of a cross-Government team representing New Zealand under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – a global initiative that works actively to reduce and counter greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took effect in March 1994. It is one of 3 conventions adopted at the Rio Earth Summit – the others being the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. All 3 are very closely linked.

The ultimate aim of the UNFCCC is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that prevents dangerous human interference with the climate system.

The Convention believes that such a level should be achieved:

  • within a timeframe sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change
  • to ensure that food production is not threatened
  • to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

MPI's international involvement

The world faces a significant challenge in learning how to feed a bigger, more affluent population while also achieving the UNFCCC's objectives.

MPI's work for international climate change focuses on 4 key areas. They are:

  1. ensuring agriculture's potential to mitigate emissions is considered appropriately for all countries
  2. improving the efficiency, productivity, resilience and adaptive-capacity of global agricultural production systems – contributing in a sustainable way to greenhouse gas mitigation efforts while still meeting our food security objectives
  3. supporting New Zealand’s obligations to both report emissions internationally and assist other countries in improving their reporting
  4. contributing to collaborative international research efforts – in particular the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA).

Land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF)

LULUCF is a term used to refer to the production and removal of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from direct, human-induced land use, land-use change and forestry activities.

The role of LULUCF activities in the mitigation of climate change has long been recognised. Mitigation can be achieved through activities in the LULUCF sector that:

  • increase removals of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the atmosphere
  • decrease emissions by sources that lead to an accumulation of carbon stocks.

New Zealand negotiates internationally for effective forestry accounting rules. These rules govern how forests are counted towards our international climate change commitments and help ensure we have effective mitigation incentives that promote sustainable management of our forests.

Reporting emissions

MPI is responsible for calculating New Zealand's agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) then publishes the results in their annual reports.

International transport emissions

International transport like air freighters and container ships create greenhouse gas emissions. MPI is part of a government group looking into this transport sector. The group deals with the organisations responsible for taking action on emissions from international transport operators. As part of this work, MPI has commissioned research. A 2016 report looked at the economic effects on New Zealand of putting a price on international transport emissions.

Ongoing involvement

New Zealand and MPI have ongoing involvement in a variety of external partnerships and programmes. You can find out more by visiting their websites.

The Paris Agreement

In December 2015, the UNFCCC held their 21st convention on climate change in Paris. It resulted in a worldwide agreement to hold average global temperatures at no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Over 180 countries signed what has become known as the Paris Agreement – the first of its kind. The Paris Agreement commits New Zealand to an ambitious target – to reduce emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Government ratified the Paris Agreement in October 2016. To meet our commitments under the agreement, changes may need to be made to our climate change policies and programmes.

Environmental footprinting

MPI works with New Zealand's primary sectors and technical specialists across a range of environmental and sustainability issues. Our aim is to enable New Zealand's primary industries to operate in international markets with credibility.

We aim to use footprinting methodologies and indicators that are:

  • validated
  • transparent
  • internationally recognised.

We do this by ensuring that:

  • international rules to verify environmental measures are fair and transparent
  • all rules are applied fairly and internationally without discrimination
  • new primary producers participate in developing and using environmental performance measures as a way to enhance their environmental performance.

It's a measuring tool

Footprinting allows us to measure the impact of our production on the global environment. For example, we could calculate how much carbon is emitted in the farming, slaughter and packaging of lamb farmed in New Zealand then shipped to the United Kingdom, sold and consumed.

There are 2 kinds of footprinting:

  • Greenhouse gas footprinting is a method of calculating the total volume of greenhouse gases created and emitted during the lifecycle of a product or service. The outputs are measured in carbon equivalents (CO2 – e). All parts and processes involved in the product's life are included in the calculation.
  • Water footprinting accounts for both the direct and indirect use of water and its associated environmental impacts during the production and use of a product or service. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) has recently published an ISO standard to guide water footprint studies.

The benefits of footprinting include:

  • increasing understanding of how products, processes and services impact the environment
  • identifying ways we can improve our systems and reduce our emissions
  • improving international relationships by showing transparency in our measuring system.

MPI is involved in a range of global footprinting initiatives

These initiatives are designed to increase NZ's environmental efficiency and provide our primary producers with verifiable information they can use in international markets.

Livestock environmental assessment and performance (LEAP) partnership

LEAP's objective is to develop comprehensive guidance and methodology for understanding the environmental performance of livestock supply chains. It involves stakeholders across the livestock sectors who share an interest in improving the environmental performance of livestock supply chains.

Product Environmental Footprinting (PEF)

PEF is a proposed method for calculating the entire lifecycle impact of a single product. It is run by the European Commission.

International Standards Organisation (ISO)

The ISO an international, non-governmental, independent organisation that creates voluntary best-practice standards across multiple sectors. It is made up of 163 national standards bodies and is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Internationally approved standards are an important part of fair and transparent international trade.

Find out more

MPI plays a big part in supporting the work of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases.

Who to contact

If you'd like to know more the information on this page, email

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