SDG 13 aims to increase the number of countries with climate change adaptation policies, strategies and plans. The New Zealand Government has published a Climate Change Risk Assessment as a first step toward developing a National Adaptation Plan. It has also introduced financial sector legislation to make climate-related risk reporting mandatory for most large entities. 

4 min read | Last updated 30 June 2021

The key performance indicator for SDG 13 target 13.2.1 is the number of countries that have communicated the establishment or operationalisation of an integrated policy/strategy/plan which increases their ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development in a manner that does not threaten food production (including a national adaptation plan, nationally determined contribution, national communication, biennial update report or other).

The objectives of the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process are:

  • to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, by building adaptive capacity and resilience
  • to facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation, in a coherent manner, into relevant new and existing policies, programmes and activities, in particular development planning processes and strategies, within all relevant sectors and at different levels, as appropriate

There are four phases in formulating and implementing a NAP:

A. lay the groundwork and address gaps
B. preparatory elements
C. implementation strategies
D. reporting, monitoring and review

The first assessment of progress on NAPs by the UNFCCC in 2018 found that least developed countries (LDCs) are mostly still in phase A, while some non-LDCs have reached phase D (see diagram below).

Source: UNFCCC, 2018

The UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2020 finds that most countries are not adapting effectively (The Guardian, 2021). Policy and planning are in place in many nations, with at last half of countries assessing risks comprehensively. Integration of plans across sectors is also good, but vertical integration through national, regional and local government is generally poor.

Also, while many plans are being implemented, there is limited evidence that risks are actually being reduced.

The core piece of New Zealand climate legislation is the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, which requires the Climate Change Commission to produce a national climate change risk report every six years and the government to produce a national adaptation plan. It also gives government the power to require adaptation reporting by businesses.

The government plans to publish a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) in 2022. It is up to local governments and businesses to prepare regional and business adaptation plans. As a first step toward the NAP, the first New Zealand vulnerability assessment – the National Climate Change Risk Assessment – was issued by the government in August 2020. The newly established Climate Change Commission will produce the assessments in future.

Aotearoa New Zealand will experience noticeable physical changes in the next 20 years:

  • large increases in extreme rainfall are expected across the country
  • Northland should expect an increase in ex-tropical cyclones
  • the number of frost days, snow days and dry days is expected to increase
  • drought will increase on the eastern side of the Southern Alps
  • increased winds are expected in South Island
  • wild fire risk will likely increase
  • sea levels are likely to rise by 0.21m by 2040
Source: NIWA

The Climate Change Risk Assessment identifies 43 priority risks based on the country’s exposure and vulnerability across five domains: natural environment, human, economy, built environment and governance.

The top ten national risks are listed below:

The New Zealand Environment Select Committee recommended to the Government that businesses report under the Zero Carbon Act in alignment with the best practice TCFD disclosure framework.

In April 2021, New Zealand became the first country in the world to introduce climate change legislation for business with the Financial Sector (Climate-related Disclosure and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. The proposal is expected to be approved by Parliament in 2021 and to come into practice by 2023 for reporting from FY22 (Beehive, 2020). The new law will help the financial sector understand the impact their investments are having on the climate.

It will be mandatory on a comply-or-explain basis for around 200 organisations, including:

  • all registered banks, credit unions, and building societies with total assets of more than $1 billion 
  • all managers of registered investment schemes with greater than $1 billion in total assets under management
  • all licensed insurers with greater than $1 billion in total assets under management (TAUM) or annual premium income greater than $250 million
  • all equity and debt issuers listed on the NZX

In addition, Crown financial institutions with greater than $1 billion in total assets under management, such as ACC and the NZ Super Fund, are expected to report in line with the TCFD recommendations, as part of the government’s work to ensure the public sector is carbon neutral by 2025 (Beehive, 2021).

Disclosures will be made in accordance with new standards being developed by the External Reporting Board (XRB). The Financial Markets Authority will be responsible for enforcing compliance with the new standards.

The UK has announced similar plans for mandatory TCFD-aligned disclosures across non-financial and financial sectors of the UK economy by 2025, with a significant portion of mandatory requirements in place by 2023 (ESG Today, 2020).

In June 2021, the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors expressed support for numerous initiatives to tackle climate change, including the movement towards mandatory climate disclosures (ESG Today, 2021).