Wellington, New Zealand

New Zealand has placed itself on the right side of history in the battle against climate change, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday, after lawmakers adopted a measure to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

Thursday's framework enshrines in law the new 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target and makes it a legally binding objective to keep global warming below a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius forecast by the United Nations.

Jacinda Ardern NZ

Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, speaks during the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City in the US on 25th September. PICTURE: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

"Today, we have made a choice that I am proud of," Ardern told parliament. "I hope it means the next generation will see that we...were on the right side of history."

The bill, spearheaded by her centre-left Labour-led coalition government, was passed with cross party support from the main opposition National Party, despite changes promised by the latter if it wins the next election in 2020.

The bill accords different treatment to methane emissions from animals versus other greenhouse gases, but still targets a cut of 10 per cent in biological methane by 2030, and up to 47 per cent by 2050.

"This...is the centrepiece for meaningful climate change action in New Zealand," said Minister for Climate Change James Shaw, the leader of the Green party, which is in coalition with Ardern's Labour. 

Lawmakers had received 11,000 submissions and heard from a cross-section of society, from students and scientists to farmers and activists, Shaw added.