Human pressure on Earth’s life support system has grown exponentially in the last 70 years. This pressure is now threatening the resilience of the Earth system. In 2009, researchers identified nine key variables that affect Earth’s life support system. For these key variables they identified boundaries beyond which sustaining the life-support system in a healthy state is at risk.

This is the planetary boundaries framework. In 2015, scientists assessed that four of the nine boundaries have been transgressed to date, which increases the risk of crossing tipping points in the Earth system.

The planetary boundaries delineates a precautionary “safe operating space” for multi-generational sustainable development. If all economies aim to reduce pressure on transgressed planetary boundaries this will help ensure a long-term sustainable planet for future generations and will bring many benefits including economic stability, improved health, food security, cleaner water and less air pollution.

The purpose of this report is to translate the planetary boundaries framework for New Zealand to inform government approaches to environmental stewardship, well-being and economic development. The translation approach it adopts explores New Zealand’s territorial environmental impact in relation to planetary boundaries and its impact beyond national boundaries via, for example, consumption of products produced elsewhere. In these respects, the analysis provides a global systemic perspective to inform policy.