Farms, forests and fossil fuels: The next great landscape transformation?

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton has released a report that explores a different approach to framing New Zealand’s long-term climate change targets and policies, and what that could mean for our landscapes.

The current approach to reducing the climate impact of New Zealand’s emissions relies heavily on forest offsets. This could be at the expense of delaying serious action on reducing gross carbon dioxide emissions. Yet And these forest ‘sinks’ are themselves vulnerable to the damage climate change is expected to inflict.

An alternative approach would be to treat fossil emissions separately from biological emissions and sinks. This could both help to ensure a clear focus on eliminating carbon dioxide emissions and at the same time allow agriculture and forestry to be managed in a way that combines emissions reductions with policies to achieve water, soil and biodiversity objectives.


  • Develop two separate targets for the second half of the century: a zero gross target for fossil emissions, and a reduction target for biological emissions based on the advice of the new Climate Commission.
  • Allow access to forest sinks as offsets only for biological emissions.
  • Develop the tools needed to manage biological sources and sinks with a landscape approach that embraces water, soil and biodiversity objectives.

Read the full report