i) Climate change context
Due to its isolated position in the Pacific, New Zealand is vulnerable to various climate change risks. The country’s 7th National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2017 states that New Zealand’s low population density, variety of landscapes, long coastline, and strong focus on agriculture all make New Zealand vulnerable to climate change . In particular, floods have been a threat to New Zealand in recent years.
New Zealand is a medium to high emitting country according to the Global Carbon Atlas (2019), emitting 7.6 tCo2/Person. New Zealand has a combined land area of around 27 million hectares, a coastline of 17,200 km, and is home to around 5.1 million people, according to the World Bank and Statistics New Zealand. The country’s highest emissions come from the energy (including transport), agriculture, industrial processes and product use, and waste sectors (National Communication, 2017).
As an Annex 1 (or industrialized country) country in the UNFCCC framework, New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 and the Paris Agreement in 2016. The country also takes part in multilateral assessments, which means it is regularly audited by other countries to ensure it will reach its climate goals. New Zealand accepted the Doha Amendment in 2015.
In December 2020, New Zealand joined a number of other countries in declaring a Climate Emergency to highlight the urgent need to act to combat climate change. The government urged all citizens to step up to this challenge; however, what this means in practice had not been defined at the time of this review.
New Zealand has a large indigenous Māori population and has incorporated Māori principles and understandings into its climate change-related policies. This includes regular consultations with Māori leaders and the referencing of Māori worldviews in policies. The political relationship between Māori and Non-Māori in New Zealand was established through the Treaty of Waitangi, which plays a major role in New Zealand’s constitution and governance. The Treaty, signed in 1840 between the Crown and Māori Chiefs, recognized Māori ownership of their lands and other resources and therefore established the relationship between Māori and British settlers
ii) Relevant government agencies
Overall responsibility for climate change in New Zealand lies with the Ministry for the Environment. The Ministry is responsible to the Minister of Climate Change, which oversees New Zealand’s Climate Change Response Act 2002 and subsequent legislation. The Interim Climate Change Committee is a Ministerial advisory committee appointed by the Climate Change Minister. Together with the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group, these two bodies advise the country on how it can adapt to climate change. An independent Climate Change Commission was established at the end of 2019 to support the country’s climate goals and delivered a comprehensive report to the New Zealand government in 2021.
Other important actors for developing and implementing climate change-related policies in New Zealand are the Department of Conservation and the Environmental Protection Authority, which provide advice on climate change policies related to conservation issues and administer New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme, respectively. Other relevant Ministries involved in climate change are listed at the Ministry for the Environment’s website.
New Zealand currently does not have an Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) focal point.
Education and communication
Formal education is steered by the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for pre-primary, primary, secondary, and tertiary education. The Ministry of Education includes a number of sub-organizations, such as the Education Review Office and Education Counts program, which conduct policy analyses and provide recommendations to the Ministry, including regarding climate change education and responses.
The Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand sets policy for teacher training and accredits providers. It does not currently require providers to include climate change education in their teacher preparation courses.
The Ministry of Education works alongside a large number of non-government organizations, civil society organizations, unions, and research institutes to assist in the provision of educational resources and assessments for teachers offering climate change education in New Zealand.
Unions, including the New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa (NZEI) and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi (CTU), are key communicators and campaigners for better climate change communication and education. NZEI employs a designated climate change campaigner who works alongside New Zealand’s teachers and students to increase climate change awareness and action.
iii) Laws, policies, and plans
Since the early 1990s, New Zealand has been a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). New Zealand’s first climate change law was the Climate Change Response Act 2002, which is the legal basis for their engagement with the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol (2002), and Paris Agreement (2016). In recent years, New Zealand has increased its climate change output and introduced several additional guidelines and plans.
One of the most recent strategy documents is Adapting to Climate Change in New Zealand (2017), which was written by the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group, which comprises climate change experts. The document explores New Zealand’s policy landscape and recommends the government increase its efforts to better prepare the country for climate change. The recommendations include improving communication with the population about climate change and fostering greater knowledge of climate change within the government, for example by integrating Māori values. The report also recommends the country develop a National Adaptation Plan.
In response to these recommendations, New Zealand amended the Climate Change Response Act 2002 with the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act (2019), which pledges to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C above pre-industrial times. This Act was enacted to allow New Zealand to prepare and adapt to climate change with the ultimate goal of making the country carbon neutral by 2050. A number of regulations supplement the Act, which is administered by the Ministry for the Environment.
Moreover, the Department of Conservation published the conservation-specific Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 2020/21 - 2024/25 in 2020. A National Adaptation Plan for the whole country is not yet publicly available, although the Ministry for the Environment, which hosts the climate change portfolio, has published a number of guidelines on its website. The 2020 update to New Zealand’s Nationally Determined Contributions states that the country aims to create a National Adaptation Plan and a framework for the whole government has been agreed upon in 2021.
The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 puts a strong emphasis on supporting projects that are beneficial to New Zealand’s climate change strategy.
Education and communication
The Education and Training Act 2020 was the most recent law regulating formal education and training in New Zealand at the time of this review. It references the Climate Change Response Act (2002) and includes a number of references to environmental education, including Māori principles.
One of the most important strategies is the Environmental Education for Sustainability (EEfS) Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2021, published by the Department of Conservation and co-authored by the Ministry for the Environment, and the Ministry of Education in 2017. The Strategy’s vision is that “All New Zealanders value a connection to our environment by actively working together for a sustainable future” (p. 7). The Strategy indicates the intention to establish an ongoing cross-sectoral governance group, which will oversee the Strategy’s implementation in active partnership with Māori communities. At the time of data collection, this review was not able to find publicly information on the initiative’s status.
According to a 2013 OECD study, New Zealand’s schools have relatively high autonomy over their curriculum development. The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) for English language schools and the Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (2017) for Māori language schools give guidelines on what and how students are supposed to learn. Yet, the concrete implementation is up to the schools. Both curricula emphasize local knowledge and values, and integrate Māori principles. Sustainability and the environment are both part of the curricula, and are included in some learning areas but also as cross-curriculum elements. While climate change is not specifically mentioned, the curricula do include references to carbon and climate. The curricula also provide space for local curricula to reference climate change in a local context.
New Zealand’s four year Education Plan 2016-2020 mentions global development, such as the global knowledge society, global environment, and global markets, but does not specifically mention climate change nor sustainable development.
iv) Terminology used for Climate Communication and Education
There have been a range of terminologies used for climate change communication and education in New Zealand. Most are referring to ‘environmental education’ or ‘education for sustainability.’
New Zealand’s 1998 National Strategy on Environmental Education: Learning to care for our environment / Me Ako ki te Tiaki Taiao focuses on ‘environmental education.’ Based on this strategy, the Ministry of Education subsequently published Guidelines for Environmental Education in New Zealand Schools (1999), which describes environmental education as a lifelong process that aims for students to develop awareness, sensitivity, knowledge, attitudes, skills, and a sense of responsibility for the environment. These guidelines have not been updated and include passing references to climate change.
The country’s most recent action plan and strategy, Mātauranga Whakauka Taiao / Environmental Education for Sustainability (2017-2021), was published by the Department of Conservation, Ministry for the Environment, and Ministry of Education in 2017. It is the equivalent to a national education for sustainability strategy for formal education. The document uses the term ‘Environmental Education for Sustainability’ (EEfS) and includes a focus on climate change. EEfS is understood as transversal, and is incorporated across documents produced by various Ministries. It refers to the education of all inhabitants of New Zealand, no matter their age or occupation. EEfS is described as being more than,
just communicating information about the environment and the ways in which it is currently threatened by human activity. EEfS helps individuals and communities to grow their understanding, skills and motivation to work together to develop solutions, act as kaitiaki [guardian], and advocate for a healthy environment and society. It also empowers individuals and communities to make decisions that are relevant to them. The relationship between the natural environment and tangata whenua [people of the land] is core to the practice of kaitiakitanga [guardianship and protection]. As well as developing practical skills and scientific understanding, EEfS incorporates a strong human element, including respecting a diversity of perspectives, reducing inequality and promoting cooperative effort. (p. 3)
‘Education for Sustainability’ (EfS) is a curriculum imperative in New Zealand, aiming to include the concept of sustainability in general in schools across the country. In a Ministry of Education curriculum resource to help educators include it in their schools, EfS is defined as:
Education for sustainability (EfS) is about learning to think and act in ways that will safeguard the future wellbeing of people and our planet. Education for sustainability includes learning about:
- the environment – water, land, ecosystems, energy, waste, urban living, transportation
- the interactions between the natural environment and human activities, and the consequences of these
- the choices and actions we can take to prevent, reduce, or change harmful activities to the environment. (n.p.)
Education for Sustainability is also one of many school subjects that students can select in their senior secondary class in the Social Sciences (ages 16-18). Here, the goal of Education for Sustainability as a subject is that “students explore and evaluate different perspectives, rethink long-standing ideas, and consider alternative practices and directions. With the support of their teacher, they can take ownership of their learning and create new knowledge.” (n.p.)
It is important to note that climate change policies in New Zealand often use the concept of Mātauranga Māori, the worldview of Māori that includes the body of knowledge originating from Māori ancestors. According to the worldview, everything living and non-living is interconnected.
v) Budget for climate change education and communication
In 2020 the Ministry for the Environment and Minister of Climate Change approved over US$51 million (NZ$71 million) to “provide advice and other support on environmental matters, implementing policy and the monitoring of domestic environmental management and educational programmes” according to the Estimates of Appropriations 2020/21 - Environment Sector B.5 Vol.3 (2020, p. 42). An additional US$4.3 million (NZ$6 million) was allocated for grants to third parties that undertake environmental educational programs, with some including climate change.
The Estimates of Appropriations document also indicates the country spent US$1.6 million (NZ$2.3 million) in the 2019/2020 financial year on monitoring “domestic environmental management programmes and educational programmes promoting awareness of environmental issues” (p. 47).
In the 2019 Voluntary National Review for the Sustainable Development Goals, New Zealand pledged to invest more funding into climate change and climate change education.
i) Climate change in pre-primary, primary and secondary education
Pre-primary education is guided by Te Whāriki He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa Early childhood curriculum (2017). It does not include specific references to climate change, but there is a strong emphasis on helping pre-primary students to develop respect for, and understanding of, nature and the environment.
New Zealand’s school system is divided into schools teaching in English and schools teaching in Māori. Both national-level curricula are used as guidelines from which schools develop school-level curriculum in combination with other resources, mainly from the Ministry of Education New Zealand Curriculum Website (English) and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa Website (Māori). A description of the types of climate change-related keywords discussed in the curricula may be found in the MECCE Project Monitoring section of this profile.
Neither the 2007 English language New Zealand Curriculum nor the 2017 Māori language curriculum specifically mention climate change. Yet there are many indirect references that would allow schools to integrate climate change learning into their curriculum. This is especially true of the Science learning area through the value given to ecological sustainability, which includes care for the environment, connection to the environment, and holistic living. The current curriculum’s ‘Future Focus Principle’ could also be used as a basis for climate change education, as it explores future-focused issues and the impact humans have on the planet. Additionally, students in Years 11-13 can choose to study the subject Education for Sustainability as part of the Social Science curriculum. The Planet Earth and Beyond learning area in Science subjects also references the Earth’s climate system and hence provides space for climate change education.
The New Zealand Curriculum is undergoing a refresh between 2021 and 2025 and it is expected that more opportunities will be explicitly provided for climate change learning.
In addition to the two Curricula, the Ministry of Education has published guidelines for environmental education, sustainability, and climate change. Since 1999, the Guidelines for Environmental Education in New Zealand Schools has been a guiding document for schools. It was last updated in 2015 to link to the current versions of the New Zealand Curriculum. Climate change is mentioned only minimally in these Guidelines. Further, the Education for Sustainability Teaching and Learning Guide for Years 11-13 was published in 2015. Climate change is primarily used in concrete lesson examples and in references to international agreements. The guide is written for the subject Education for Sustainability, taught at secondary schools, and is not a general guideline for including sustainability in schools.
Other resources more specifically focused on improving climate change education in schools were distributed during Earth Day 2020 by the Ministry of Education. Also in 2020, the Ministry of Education published the Climate Change: Prepare Today, Live Well Tomorrow education resource for learning level four. This was the most concrete teacher resource published by the Ministry of Education about climate change at the time of this review. The program consists of two resources for teachers: one course guide, which explains climate change through a series of lesson plans, and one wellbeing guide, which focuses on the wellbeing of the students to reduce overwhelm and anxiety. As the wellbeing guide explains:
Whilst anxiety is an appropriate response to the issue of climate change, students require accurate information and support in order for their anxiety to generate constructive responses, and/or actions, rather than leading to despair, frustration and powerlessness. (2020, p. 3)
The Climate Change: Prepare Today, Live Well Tomorrow (2020) resource addresses the issue of climate change learning in a cognitive, social/emotional, action, and justice-oriented way. It focuses on climate change adaptation as well as mitigation, but references adaptation more than mitigation. The resource aims to create knowledge about climate change through the topic ‘Tuning In: Exploring Knowledge and Understanding of Climate Change.’ It also encourages students to take action, see what they can do to stop climate change, and learn what it means for other groups of people to live with climate change. The documents are based on scientific knowledge as well as on Māori principles drawn Mātauranga Māori, the Māori ways of knowing.
Another way the Ministry of Education is incorporating climate change into schools is through English and Literacy resources. The Ministry provides a large number of texts that incorporate climate change across different subject areas for almost all grade levels. This ensures that climate change can be taught in an interdisciplinary way. More resources are also available on New Zealand’s teaching resource website TKI (TKI is an acronym for Te Kete Ipurangi, which is an online knowledge basket), in Māori and English.
LEARNZ is a platform for virtual field trips, including some specifically designed for climate change. This means that school classes can go on fieldtrips where they learn about the effects of climate change in different ecosystems and parts of the world. The website is supported by a number of government agencies, including the Ministry of Education, the Department of Conservation, and the Department of Civil Defence and Emergencies.
The New Zealand Government also supports the Enviroschools Program, an initiative run by the Toimata Foundation to foster a generation who think critically and act sustainably. To date, it has reached 969 schools and 397 early childhood education centers across the country and has promoted environmentally aware behavior in students and communities. There is a similar program focused on Māori schools called Te Aho Tū Roa. The schools follow a holistic approach in which the students are involved in their environment, learn about different aspects of the world, and take action to increase the sustainability and health of their school and community. The learning and action that occurs in these programs may directly address climate change at times. At other times, the holistic approach to sustainability means that learning and action for a sustainable future may include education about climate change.
In its 7th National Communication (2017), New Zealand indicates it has a series of Achievement Standards for the Education on Sustainability subject at levels 2 and 3 on the National Qualifications Framework, New Zealand’s learning qualification system, which is aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum. These are currently under review.
The 2019 Voluntary National Review explained that New Zealand is currently in the process of reworking its education system through stakeholder consultations in order to more closely link the curriculum with global citizenship and taking responsibility for the world.
ii) Climate change in teacher training and teaching resources
Teacher training is steered and monitored by the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand. At the time of this review, there were no materials indicating how and if climate change is included in either in-service or pre-service teacher training. Yet, several resources are available to support teachers in preparing climate change lessons.
The Ministry of Education and the Ministry for the Environment both offer websites with resources for climate change education. For example, the Science Learning Hub manages a website with climate change education resources, including Professional Learning and Development resources to help teachers grow their own skills and knowledge. The Hub also links New Zealand scientists with school students, teachers, and community audiences. It is funded by the Government of New Zealand through the Ministry of Education. Another example is Pūtātara: a Call for Action, which was published by the Ministry of Education and intended to be part of the 2020 Dubai Expo. The resource focuses on place-based learning opportunities, including local realities, and incorporates Māori principles. The resource’s main focus is sustainable development and global citizenship. In addition to lesson plans, the resource’s website links to a large number of external websites, including articles, research, and funding opportunities about climate change.
Rangi - Weather and Climate Lessons for Teachers is another resource that provides information on climate change, and combines science and Māori principles. It was developed by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), a Crown Institute, which means it is funded and monitored by the New Zealand Government, yet independent. The Rangi resources were specially designed for teachers who teach science subjects in middle school and are intended to spark curiosity for STEM subjects. In total, there are 14 lesson plans that focus on weather and global warming from a science-based perspective while also focusing on indicators the Māori use to understand the environment. The last lesson introduces the idea of ‘pathway thinking’ to encourage hope and ownership over climate change action among New Zealand’s students.
The government also contracts non-state actors to develop resources to support teachers to teach about climate change in New Zealand. For example, Climate Change: Prepare Today, Live Well Tomorrow (2020) was published by Future Curious for the Ministry of Education. The resource gives teachers the necessary knowledge to teach about climate change in a holistic and interdisciplinary manner. The resource provides eight lesson plans structured around extending the knowledge of level four students (ages 12-13), provides ideas for student action projects, and includes ways to offer students hope that adaptation and mitigation can minimise the impacts of climate change. A related teacher resource focuses on the student wellbeing, and managing eco-anxiety and overwhelm. It also includes information on how to prepare for a climate change disaster and what to do afterwards at school. The Education Gazette is a resource for educators in New Zealand to find information on the latest educational developments, including new resources for climate change education. Unions such as the New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa also provide updates and guidelines for climate change education.
Two studies from 2019 conducted by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research found that teachers thought that while environmental education was strongly embedded in schools in New Zealand, climate change was not a widely available topic and more support from the government would be needed to bring the topic into the classroom nation-wide.
iii) Climate change in higher education
The Tertiary Education Commission, a government body within the Ministry of Education, is responsible for higher education in New Zealand. While the Commission has organized some climate change events, they had not produced a publicly available overall climate change strategy for tertiary education at the time of this review. However, in 2020, the Commission published the National Tertiary Education (NTE) Strategy and National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP), which lists several learning objectives related to climate change. Objective 7 is to “collaborate with industries and employers to ensure learners/ākonga have the skills, knowledge and pathways to succeed in work,” (p. 3) including providing the necessary skills for New Zealand’s carbon-neutral industry. Objective 8 is to “enhance the contribution of research and Mātauranga Māori in addressing local and global challenges” (p. 3) and promotes the development of new and interdisciplinary research to solve local and global challenges. While those objectives do not mention climate change directly, they give tertiary education institutions the ability to include it when needed.
Higher education is often made responsible for providing the necessary skills for emission-free jobs in the future, such as in Ināia Tonu Nei: A Low Emissions Future for Aotearoa, an advice document by the newly established Climate Change Commission. This is also a key theme in the previously mentioned National Tertiary Strategy.
Many higher education institutions in New Zealand have developed institutional guidelines to support climate action and are actively involved in developing research, guidelines, and communications about climate change. For example, the 7th National Communication mentions a strong connection between the government and the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at the Victoria University of Wellington. In 2021, a Bachelor of Climate Change was approved at the University of Waikato. The degree will allow students to gain interdisciplinary learning across aspects of climate change before specialising in climate science, social science, management, law, or Indigenous studies.
According to the country’s Voluntary National Review (2019), New Zealand has eight government universities represented at a national level by Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara. Since 2018, this group of universities has hosted a series of national Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Summits to support the SDGs through networking spaces and resources, and have included climate change as a topic.
iv) Climate change in training and adult learning
The Environmental Education for Sustainability (EEfS) Strategy and Action Plan explicitly includes initiatives for the “community, kaitiaki [guards], NGOs, local government and many other organisations who are engaging New Zealanders in EEfS as part of their jobs or on a volunteer basis” (2017, p. 25). This is a clear indicator that the strategy aims to provide a transformative understanding for all New Zealanders.
A variety of New Zealand ministries and government agencies offer relevant training programs in relation to their areas of expertise, including the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and the Ministry for Primary Industries, which represent the highest polluting sectors in New Zealand. For example, the Ministry of Primary Industries offers workshops to teach farmers more climate-friendly practices. The Ministry of Primary Industries also has a program to plant one billion trees by 2028, which aims to provide training in climate change-related fields, increase jobs in the future, and reduce emissions. The program also incorporates Māori values through tree planting, as the initiative maximizes Māori’s use of their lands, while increasing tourism and supporting local flora and fauna.
The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), a Crown research institute, is strongly connected to the government and provides training, education materials, and public awareness activities.
Additionally, the Government of New Zealand encourages local governments to provide more training. Published by the Government of New Zealand in 2008, an Overview and Guidelines for Local Government helps local governments organize training in response to and in preparation for climate change to increase readiness for climate change impacts and prepare local communities for change.
For companies and institutions, a large number of climate certificates exist that can be used to monitor climate change adaptation and mitigation activities. Examples include Toitū Envirocare, which offers its members tools to certify their businesses, and the Green Ribbon Awards, last run in 2017 by the Ministry for the Environment to award organizations with exceptional commitment to adaptation and mitigation.
The 7th National Communication (2017) highlights the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, which provides training for small and medium sized companies on effective energy use with the aim of reducing New Zealand’s emissions in support of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act (2019).
The 7th National Communication (2017) also describes a number of further initiatives that specifically involve Māori in New Zealand. One example is the Waste Minimisation Fund’s Para Kore (Zero Waste) Education Program, which aims to help all Marae (local Māori centres) become waste-free by providing information and training opportunities.
New Zealand has a strong commitment to train technicians and scientists from developing countries, including in skills relating to climate change (7th National Communication; 2017). The country regularly sponsors people to complete their training in New Zealand and also funds projects abroad. Training programs offered for developing countries include the Livestock Emissions Abatement Research Network, which focuses on low emissions livestock management. The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre also provides local and international training programs focusing on soil carbon and methane research.
The Ināia Tonu Nei: A Low Emissions Future for Aotearoa is an advice document by the newly established Climate Change Commission which stresses that New Zealand’s vocational education and training systems will need to adapt faster and provide training for transferable skills for the kinds of new jobs required by a carbon neutral society.
i) Climate change and public awareness
New Zealand offers different campaigns and initiatives to increase awareness of climate change among its citizens and organizations. Many resources are targeted at providing information about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in alignment with the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act (2019).
One of the largest campaigns is the Gen Less campaign (formerly Energywise), provided by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. Gen Less aims to reduce energy use, especially energy generated by fossil fuels, by encouraging New Zealanders to make climate-conscious decisions. The campaign’s website provides a number of resources for private homeowners and businesses to actively reduce their climate impacts; for example, there are tools to measure one’s own emissions and concrete examples of emission reduction strategies. Another Government initiative designed to empower New Zealanders to reduce their climate footprints, was a 2020 campaign called ‘Say No to Wasted Energy,’ which encourages New Zealanders to say no to carbon intensive activities such as unnecessary business flights or driving to work.
Another government-supported organization is Toitū Envirocare, which provides certification and emission reduction tools for small businesses to increase awareness of their sustainable business practices. The government has also introduced the Environmental Choice New Zealand Ecolabel as a certification to encourage more awareness of climate change through consumer purchases.
The Green Ribbon Awards have been awarded by the Ministry of the Environment since 1990, and have included a category for reducing greenhouse gas emissions since 2010. The Awards have been used to raise public awareness of best practices in emission reduction activities. However, the Awards had not been held since 2017 at the time of this review.
New Zealand also has a strong focus on promoting electric cars and better driving habits. The Efficient and Low Emissions Transport Programme by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority offers resources and information on how to choose vehicles with lower emissions.
He Waka Eke Noa - Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership is a partnership to reduce primary sector emissions. Farmers learn to measure, manage, and reduce on-farm agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.
Additionally, the government publishes annual overview brochures to inform the public about action taken for climate change. For example, in 2014 the Ministry for the Environment published the New Zealand Framework for Adapting to Climate Change, which gives examples on what New Zealand is doing to adapt to climate change and aims to educate the public about climate change and adaptation. New Zealand’s Action on Climate Change (2016) is another brochure produced by the Ministry that aims to take stock of New Zealand’s climate initiatives and inform the community about future plans. The latest document, Our Atmosphere and Climate 2020 Summary, was published by the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Statistics in October 2020. Other guides, resources, and ways to get involved are published on the Ministry for the Environment Website in English and Māori.
New Zealand has indicated in its past National Communications a strong support for climate communication initiatives. For instance, the 7th National Communication (NC) stated, “the New Zealand Government actively supports initiatives that increase public awareness of climate change and promote behaviour change, including by providing information to the public, local government and different industry sectors” (2017, p. 297). Chapter nine of the NC lists many initiatives with a strong focus on public awareness and communication activities, highlighting New Zealand’s strong commitment to public awareness.
ii) Climate change and public access to information
Many government ministry websites offer publicly accessible information about climate change which, together with regular update reports and public consultations, help New Zealand’s citizens stay informed about climate change.
The Ministry for the Environment website includes climate change videos and information on what New Zealanders s can do for climate action. Also, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) offers a large amount of information about climate change for schools, individuals, and companies. This includes publications, data, and a toolbox to foster better understanding of climate change.
Local government also plays a role in educating the public about climate change. The 2008 guide, Climate Change Effects and Impacts Assessment: A Guidance Manual for Local Government in New Zealand, highlights the need for the general public to be considered in local climate change adaptation plans and stresses the need for local governments to develop climate change communication plans.
New Zealand public access to climate change information initiatives have a strong focus on the agricultural sector due to its high emissions. The Ministry for Primary Industries’ website lists projects and policies related to agriculture and climate change. Additionally, the Ministry hosts ClimateCloud, which offers research and information to support farmers to use more climate-friendly agricultural methods.
According to the 7th National Communication (2017), New Zealand regularly publishes reports on the state of the country’s environment and climate. These include shorter, more accessible reports for the general public. A large amount of information on the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme is available for the public and business community. Resources and information on how to voluntarily report on greenhouse gas emissions are also available.
iii) Climate change and public participation
New Zealand aims to provide numerous opportunities for the public to actively participate in decision-making and climate action. The country regularly consults the public, with a special focus on including Māori voices, and seeking input on both domestic strategies and international reporting documents such as those submitted to the UNFCCC. In particular, consultation workshops on emission targets are held to allow the public to actively engage in these discussions.
One example of public participation in climate change decision making was available via the Have Your Say Website, which was established by the New Climate Change Commission in 2021. The Commission is a public participation mechanism, as it includes members of the public and is based on transparent and participatory principles. It allows New Zealanders to participate in surveys and online consultations to inform the independent Climate Change Commission in formulating its advice to the government about the country’s next steps for climate action. The Commission produced its first draft report for consultation in January 2021 and final advice in June 2021. The advice focuses mostly on New Zealand’s carbon emission and the steps needed to reduce it.
An opportunity for youth, the Hive, was established in 2021 through a collaboration between an energetic force of young New Zealanders, the Ministry of Youth Development, and creative agency Curative. In early 2021, the Hive worked with the Climate Change Commission to give young people, mostly between 13 and 24, the possibility to participate in government decision-making on climate change.
Until 2020, the Government of New Zealand funded the creation of 12 Environment Centres through the Ministry of Environment’s Community Environment Fund. Their key purpose was to facilitate and motivate existing and new groups within the community to take action to materially improve environmental quality and to provide environmental information and education services for the community. The Centres also act as a focus and meeting place for community action on environmental issues. Many of these centres continue to exist through different forms of funding.
Businesses are also involved in climate action processes in New Zealand. In 2018 the Climate Leaders Coalition was formed to encourage businesses to commit to voluntary actions to reduce emissions.
According to the 7th National Communication (2017), the Ministry of the Environment has a Strategic Relationship Agreement with the Pou Taiao Iwi Leaders Group and a mechanism within the Māori tribes (iwi) for decision making, to facilitate an open dialogue about climate change initiatives. Members of Māori communities are also part of the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group run by the Ministry of the Environment, which includes members from different parts of society.
i) Country monitoring
New Zealand has a comprehensive education assessment and quality assurance system in place. The Ministry of Education has developed a series of Achievement Standards on sustainability-related education for Levels 2 and 3 of the National Qualifications Framework, which are used by the government to assess the learning levels of New Zealand’s students. These Achievement Standards are currently being revised. Additionally, the New Zealand Standard Classification of Education, the school-leaving levels for years 11-13, includes references to climate change that can be used by educators to measure the outcomes of climate change education.
New Zealand also uses international assessments to evaluate the state of climate communication and education in the country. For example, when New Zealand participated in the PISA Global Competence Study in 2018, the Ministry of Education analysed the results in a 2020 publication, which found that New Zealand’s students’ overall awareness of global issues was lower than the OECD average. However, climate change was one area where students scored highly, with 83% of students being aware of climate change. This appears to be an improvement on the country’s 2015 results, when only 60% of students said they could explain greenhouse gases, although this comparison should be treated with caution as the data measured different elements.
The Education Counts website provides statistics about education in New Zealand and is run by the Ministry of Education. The website holds a number of reports and assessments on environmental education and sustainability education at schools in New Zealand, as well as on the Enviroschools Programme.
Additionally, the Education Review Office regularly publishes updates on the state of education in New Zealand. While there is no specific indicator for climate change education to date, the Office highlights its importance in various articles.
Statistics New Zealand collects indicators and data for New Zealand. In 2019, it started collecting Wellbeing Data for New Zealand, which includes data on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) progress. It does not collect specific data on SDG 4.7 or SDG 13.3, but rather displays them in context to other factors in New Zealand.
ii) MECCE Project Monitoring
The Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project examined New Zealand’s 2015 Education Plan 2016-2020 (ESP) and two National Curriculum Frameworks, the New Zealand Curriculum for English schools and the Te Marautanga o Aotearoa for Māori schools, for references to ‘climate change,’ ‘sustainability,’ ‘biodiversity,’ and the ‘environment.’
A keyword analysis of National Curriculum Frameworks found few mentions of ‘climate change,’ with only references to climate change in the English curriculum, and 2 in the Māori curriculum. The curricula mention ‘environment’ most often, with 98 references in the English language curriculum vs. 66 in the Māori language curriculum. The English language curriculum included a stronger focus on “sustainability” (English, 19 references; Māori, 5 references) whereas the Māori language curriculum included a stronger focus on ‘biodiversity’ (English, 4 references; Māori, 8 references).
New Zealand’s four year Education Plan 2016-2020 (ESP) does not mention ‘climate change.’ It references ‘environment’ eight times, ‘sustainability’ four times, and ‘biodiversity’ zero times.
See Figure 1 highlights the distribution of references to climate change relative to those to sustainable development and environment in New Zealand’s NCFs and ESP, including a total of 217 references.
This section will be updated as the MECCE project develops.
This profile was reviewed by Liam Rutherford, President NZEI Te Riu Roa and Chris Eames, National executive, New Zealand Association for Environmental Education.