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Climate change

Our climate is changing, with big implications for the building industry. BRANZ is working with partners to help the industry reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be better prepared to cope with the changes.

The work comes under the umbrella of the Transition to a zero-carbon built environment programme. The aim of this programme is that, by 2050, the building and construction industry is delivering net-zero carbon buildings in an affordable way.

Climate patterns have always changed, but significant changes already under way are attributed to human activities. Increasing levels of gases such as carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas are acting like a greenhouse in the atmosphere, lifting temperatures.

Mitigating emissions from the built environment

Understanding and mitigating the causes of climate change, such as greenhouse gas emissions, is becoming increasingly important, especially with greater awareness and focus on climate change as a result of its impact on people and the environment.

The built environment has a responsibility to mitigate the effects of its products and processes as it contributes 15-20% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand. These are primarily made up of the long-lived gas carbon dioxide (CO₂).

We need to mitigate emissions by adopting:

  • solutions and tools for designing and constructing buildings with a long useful life and low embodied carbon over their life cycle
  • designs for buildings that can be deconstructed for reuse or recycling and/or repurposed for the changing needs of future building users.

Committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions

As part of the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, New Zealand has made a number of commitments. These are the key ones:

  • The Paris Agreement – a United Nations initiative that commits us to achieving a 50% reduction of our 2005 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. (This was updated in 2021 from our original commitment of 30%.) The agreement also aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions between 2050 and 2100.
  • The Climate Change Response Act 2002 - a New Zealand law amended in 2019 with a commitment to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases (except methane from plants and animals) to zero by 2050.
  • Aotearoa New Zealand’s first emissions reduction plan – May 2022

In December 2023, the Climate Change Commission released its 2023 Advice on the direction of policy for the Government’s second emissions reduction plan.

Updated: 29 January 2024