Last month the Government proposed a series of initiatives to help reduce transport emissions by improving the quality of our vehicle fleet. A lot of focus went on what’s called the “Clean Car Discount” where purchasing new dirtier vehicles will become more expensive and new cleaner vehicles cheaper. While there was a bit of political noise initially, polling had indicated the public support the policy:
Fifty-one per cent of New Zealanders support the Government’s proposed electric vehicle scheme that would see low-emission cars subsidised and a fee added to some high emitters.
The latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll found 51 per cent were in support, 39 per cent opposed it and 10 per cent did not know.
The groups of people who were more likely than average to support the scheme were Green Party supporters, Wellingtonians, Labour supporters, Asian New Zealanders and people aged 18-34.
Those who were more than likely against were National supporters, people living in Waikato, men aged 35 and over and New Zealand Europeans.
More recent indications suggest about 80% of online submissions so far also support it.
Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said about 80 per cent of the online responses the Transport Ministry had so far received in response to a discussion paper on the feebate scheme and an associated “clean car standard” had supported the policies.
There is a clear and urgent need to reduce New Zealand’s transport emissions. Since 1990 emissions from transport – especially road transport – have grown faster than any other sector.
Furthermore, in recent years transport emissions have grown scarily quickly, possibly reflecting the previous government’s focus of transport investment into a few large and very expensive roads – as well as rapid population growth:
Much of our raison d’etre at Greater Auckland is about encouraging transport agencies and politicians to improve public transport, walking and cycling facilities, as well as to reshape our cities so people don’t have to be so car dependent, which is one of the best ways to help reverse this trend. But the scale of our emissions challenge is so great that we also need to dramatically change the vehicle fleet away from burning fossil fuels – so it’s great to see initiatives like this from the government.
Alongside the “Clean Car Discount” that most of the media discussion has focused on, the Government’s proposal also covers what’s called a “Clean Car Standard” – which seeks to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles being imported into New Zealand. It’s described in a bit more detail below:
I was pretty shocked to find that New Zealand is one of only three OECD countries (along with Australia and Russia) to not have a vehicle fuel efficiency standard. This means that we often get much less fuel efficient versions of major models than other countries – meaning that we end up needing to burn more petrol, creating more emissions and also costing New Zealanders a lot in extra petrol costs. The table below shows how much less fuel efficient most vehicle models sold in New Zealand are compared to their UK equivalents:
While the standard (and indeed the Clean Car Discount) aren’t a complete solution to the transport emissions problem New Zealand faces, the graph below indicates that the standard will make an important contribution to reducing our emissions – especially if the standard continues to be tightened over time.
Overall, introducing the standard has significant benefits and really appears to be a ‘no-brainer’. In fact it’s pretty surprising that this wasn’t done a long time ago.
If implemented in 2021, a vehicle fuel efficiency standard with an emissions target of 105 grams CO2/km in 2025 is estimated to have lifetime emissions reductions of between 3.9 million and 6.7 million (mid-range 5 million) tonnes of CO2.
This level of emissions reduction is the equivalent to preventing the emissions from 359,000 to 616,000 (mid-range 476,000) vehicles. Alternatively, it is the equivalent to preventing nearly all the emissions that occur from electricity generation in a single year.
A vehicle fuel efficiency standard would have associated fuel savings estimated at $2.2 million to $5.6 billion (mid-range $3.4 billion) over the period 2020–2041. It would also contribute to a reduction in air pollutant emissions through facilitating an increase in the uptake of EVs.