Developing a National Climate Change Adaptation Plan for New Zealand


The process of developing a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) for climate change was established under the 2010 Cancun Adaptation Framework. NAPs are forward-looking, holistic plans which are generally country-driven, given the local nature of adapting to climate change.

NAPs have again been prioritized in 2015 through two global initiatives: the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) has also attempted to bridge gap between present-day disaster risk management and climate change impacts, which in the past were often treated separately.

The problem

In considering this global context, the purpose of this research project was to take the first steps to determine if a NAP would benefit New Zealand. A New Zealand NAP could help inform national and local governments, the private sector, and citizens of the wide-ranging impacts of climate change, and would suggest a vision and actions for building resilience to changes in our climate, so that overall New Zealand is better prepared and less susceptible to future impacts of climate change.

The solution

Possible options for the structure and various elements of a New Zealand NAP are considered, based on UNFCCC recommendations for developing a NAP and on the examination of nine existing NAPs globally (USA, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Denmark, and Finland). These NAPs were selected based on their relevance and similarity to the New Zealand context.


Key recommendations for a New Zealand NAP (noting that significant progress has already been made on some of these recommendations) include:

  • Ministries and local governments to develop their own separate implementation plans – following a defined framework or template, linked to the same overall goals and principles, but allowing for flexibility as necessary.
  • To develop both an Adaptation Strategy (high-level) and an Action Plan (detailed level) either as separate documents or combined into one document.
  • To include both urban and rural situations and considerations through climate change case studies and legislation.
  • To list both existing and potential adaptation actions by key sectors and policy areas. Regional priorities may also be included in the same document.
  • To focus on short-term implementable actions, which are based on longer term climate projections.
  • To list key prioritized actions, with responsible parties, timeframes, resources available, and evaluation indicators described in detail.
  • To have a mandate to evaluate and update the NAP on a regular basis, thus making it into a flexible, living document.
  • To have any adaptation strategy or plan developed be statutory.
  • To base a NAP on a comprehensive national risk assessment and prioritisation process.
  • To mainstream climate change adaptation into regular activities of government so as to increase efficiency and avoid conflicting goals.
  • To develop separate municipal adaptation plans for large cities.
  • To develop a national research strategy for climate change adaptation in order to ensure climate change research fills the gaps in knowledge required for adaptation planning.
  • To establish a coordinating body to oversee implementation and evaluation of strategies and plans.
  • To develop a national web-based information portal for climate change information.
  • To establish pathways for integrating climate change data and information from the science sector into a NAP and corresponding policies and actions.
  • To consider international responsibilities when developing a NAP.


Download the Developing a national climate change adaptation plan (NAP) for New Zealand scoping report - March 2017. [PDF 2.5MB]

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Chief Scientist - Climate, Atmosphere and Hazards
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Page last updated: 
28 April 2017
Storm generates large waves along the Esplanade, Owhiro Bay, Wellington, on 21 June 2013. [Photo by Dave Allen, NIWA]