At the Paris Climate Change conference in 2015 New Zealand committed itself to a 30% reduction over 2005 levels in its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. New Zealand ratified this commitment on 17 August 2016 and the Agreement became binding on all parties on 4 November 2016. More recently (early 2018) the New Zealand government announced its commitment to pass into law an even more ambitious programme of GHG reductions. Called the Zero Carbon Bill (ZCB), this law, when passed by parliament, will commit New Zealand to net zero GHG emissions by 2050.
Against this pending legislative background, the question is to what extent New Zealand’s oceans could assist in meeting these international and domestic obligations under any set of realistic scenarios?
Going further, and supposing government wanted to seize the environmental high ground, what would need to be the characteristics of any new oceanic carbon sink in order to progress from a net zero carbon economy to a net negative carbon economy? In effect, to promote both the oceans and the New Zealand ocean economy as a means of reducing GHG emissions below net zero by 2050 or sooner?
Assuming that pure and applied science can supply a practical set of answers to oceanic carbon sink issues, New Zealand could eventually position itself to sell carbon offsets on the international carbon offset market, thereby creating new economic opportunities based on our oceans.