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But success cannot be achieved without the Government and corporations removing barriers and enabling change.
Dr Rod Carr was speaking at the International Science Festival at Otago Museum yesterday.
It was one of the topics at the "Science Teller: Imagine a Sustainable Society" talk, which tackled the question of what it would take to live in a sustainable society.
Dr Carr said the commission concluded New Zealand needed to do more than the commitment it made in the Paris Agreement.
That was based on a range of factors, including how much the country contributed to the world’s emissions, its status as a richer country, and the fact that New Zealand had technology options available to it to create change.
"As a sovereign nation, it is your choice what you choose to do — but it not your choice whether you reduce emissions or not. You choose how — you don’t choose when."
But striking a balance between not moving too fast or too slow was tricky, he said.
"If we try to move too fast too soon, we could alienate communities and constituencies. If we wait too long, we will make it harder, more expensive and less likely to achieve our ambitions."
He believed New Zealand had the opportunity to achieve zero net emissions, but the impacts of agriculture was a major "challenge".
Half of the country’s greenhouse emissions come from biogenic methane emissions.
"We are truly extraordinary in that sense."
The commission acknowledged that the science to help manage those emissions did not exist "today", he said.
Dr Carr was later joined by a discussion panel, including Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins and Ciara Foley, from School Strike for Climate Change.
They answered questions from pupils from schools across Otago, Southland and Canterbury.