WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand scaled back its target for reducing carbon emissions on Friday, saying the move was an interim step ahead of a new United Nations pact from 2020.
The government said it would commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. It had previously indicated that it would look at a cut of 10 percent to 20 percent.
"In deciding this target, the government has carefully balanced the cost to New Zealand households and businesses against taking ambitious action to tackle climate change," Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said in a statement.
Last November, New Zealand said it would commit to an emissions reduction target under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is not a legal treaty, rather than sign up to second deal under the Kyoto Protocol.
It had previously said its target would be influenced by global progress in tackling emissions, particularly in major developing economies such as China and India.
United Nations climate talks in South Africa in 2011 agreed to sign an international deal in 2015 that would impose binding emission cuts from 2020.
"Taking this 2020 target allows us to take action in the interim, while the shape of this new agreement is being determined," Groser said.
The European Union has a target of cutting emissions by 20 to 30 percent below 1990 levels from 2020, Australia has said it would cut by at least 5 percent, and possibly by up to 25 percent, and Britain aims to cut emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2027.
About 70 percent of New Zealand's electricity comes from renewable hydro, geothermal, and wind generation.
(Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Richard Pullin)