Climate change is one of the most important environmental challenges globally, with enough evidence showing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing this (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2013).

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at their highest in 400,000 years. This is expected to affect the availability and demand for natural resources, and increase the rate of loss of biodiversity and ecosystems that provide services essential for life (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 2019).

Countries are seeking to reduce greenhouse gases in response to the Paris Agreement of December 2015. To do this they need robust data on the sources of emissions that contribute to climate change, and information on the impacts of climate change on the environment.

The aim of the Paris Agreement is to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions stem from all parts of the economy as well as direct activities by households. The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill will introduce new targets to reduce all greenhouse gases (except biogenic methane) to net zero by 2050 but levels of gross emissions are unchanged in the last decade and the rate of new planting in forestry has slowed. Moving to a low-emissions economy will require a combination of reduced emissions from industry and households, and land use changes.

Environmental-economic accounts: 2019 (data to 2017) presents the relationships between the environment and the economy, and the stocks, and changes in stocks, of New Zealand's natural resources.

This edition of the accounts focuses on climate change and the transition to a low-emissions economy: the pressures of emissions on the atmosphere, the likely impacts of climate change on natural resources, and the extent of economic responses to reduce emissions.

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