As we were launching Engineering Climate Action in November, COP26 was being held in Glasgow. The annual 'Conference of the Parties', COP26 was the 2021 United Nations’ climate change conference.

At COP26, the New Zealand Government signed up to 27 declarations, initiatives, pledges, and statements. The Government also announced an increased Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and a fourfold increase in climate finance prior to the conference. The NDC is an international target that every country sets which outlines the contribution the country will make towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The new NDC, to reduce net emissions 50 per cent below gross 2005 levels by 2030 (or a 41 per cent reduction using an ‘emissions budget’ approach), follows advice from the Climate Change Commission that the previous target was incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees below pre-industrial levels. The provisional emissions budget for the current NDC is 571 Megatonnes of Carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2e), down from 623Mt CO2e in 2016.

The Government is committing to spend $1.3 billion over four years to support the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including at least half of this spend to our neighbours in the Pacific to support their adaptation.

Read 'Govt increases contribution to global climate target'

Read 'New Zealand increases climate aid contribution'


New Zealand signed up to multitude commitments at COP26.

Read Commitments made at COP26


Energy was by far the sector with the most commitments. These included a focus on phasing out oil and gas production; calls to end public spending for fossil fuel subsidies; and urgent scale-up and support for clean power and energy transition to make it the most affordable and accessible option globally. 

Crucially, New Zealand also signed the pledge to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. This will require emission reduction measures across oil and gas, agriculture, and solid waste industries. 

Relevant initiatives 

  • Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (Associated membership) 
  • Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform endorsement of the UNDP campaign 
  • Proposal on ending coal support within the OECD Export Credit Arrangement 
  • Statement on International Public Support for the Clean Energy Transition 
  • Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement 
  • No New Coal Power Compact 
  • Global Methane Pledge 


Commitments relating to transport focused on decarbonising maritime routes and shipping, reducing aviation emissions and accelerating transition to zero emission land-transport vehicles.

Of note, New Zealand signed the declaration on accelerating the transition to 100 percent zero emission cars and vans. All sales of new cars and vans will be zero emission by 2040, and no later than 2035 for leading markets. 

Relevant initiatives 

  • Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors 
  • Declaration on Accelerating the Transition to 100% Zero Emission Cars and Vans 
  • Declaration on Zero Emission Shipping by 2050 
  • Global Memorandum of Understanding: Zero-Emission Medium and Heavy-duty Vehicles
  • International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition and associated Aviation Net Zero Declaration

Primary industries

Action in the primary industries focused on a global transformation in agriculture and land use. This will be achieved through halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation, as well as prioritising investment in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation.

Relevant initiatives 

  • Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use 
  • Joining the Agriculture Innovation Mission (AIM) for Climate 
  • Policy Action Agenda on Transition to Sustainable Agriculture through Repurposing Public Policies and Support and Scaling Innovation 

Research and Development

New Zealand signed up to collaborate with other countries to support and accelerate the development and deployment of low carbon technologies and sustainable solutions.

Relevant initiatives 

  • Joint Declaration with Quebec and California on Cooperation in the Fight Against Climate Change 
  • World Leaders Statement and Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda 

How climate action is realised and monitored

COP26 also placed focus on increasing the transparency and ambition of long-term strategies to meet the target of maintaining temperature rise to within 1.5°C of pre-Industrial levels. This includes developing a set of international standards for sustainability-related disclosure.

Relevant initiatives 

  • Carbon Neutrality Coalition COP26 Communique: Realising true zero 
  • High Ambition Coalition COP26 Leaders’ Statement
  • Welcomed the establishment of International Sustainability Standards Board 

Several statements also focused on increasing the total share of climate finance spent on adaptation and resilience and aligning official development assistance (foreign aid) with the Paris Agreement:

Champions Groups on Adaptation Finance 

  • Joint Climate Change Ministerial Statement on: Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS) 
  • OECD Development Assistance Committee Statement for COP26 

Just transitions, wellbeing and the voices and role of women, girls and gender minorities in climate action were also supported through statements, pledges, coalitions and declarations. These included: 

  • Glasgow Women’s Leadership Statement 
  • Supporting the Conditions for a Just Transition Internationally Declaration 
  • Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership pledge 
  • Women Leading on Climate Coalition

For a comprehensive list of all commitments New Zealand made as part of COP26, with links to more information for each commitment, refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Commitments made at COP26, as above.


Clean Construction Declaration

The cities of Budapest, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Oslo and San Francisco are leading the way in reducing construction emissions – with some committing to at least halve emissions from the initial construction of buildings by 2030 as part of C40's Clean Construction Declaration. C40 is a network of mayors from nearly 100 world-leading cities, including Auckland, to enable collaboration on urgent climate action. Engineers working in the buildings sector are finding new, low carbon construction methods and materials to meet new targets. 

Read Clean Construction Declaration


With COP26 over and the recent consultation on the Government’s draft Emissions Reduction Plan, it remains important for engineers to keep up with climate change news. In order to meet targets, set at the country and city level, engineers can expect new requirements and changing client expectations. On a practical level, commitments around energy and transport mean that clients, such as the government, are going to be reconfiguring cities and towns over the coming years to activate zero-emissions vehicles and active modes. Engineers will need to think differently about how they can show clients that they are ready to respond to meet new design requirements. Likewise, engineers working in the materials and buildings sectors will need to be carbon literate and capable of finding new, low carbon methods and materials. 

Across all sectors, passionate and capable engineers will be needed to support the realisation of our climate ambitions. Te Ao Rangahau, Engineering New Zealand is committed to supporting engineers to engage in climate action and understand their role in mitigating, transitioning, and adapting to climate change.