Safe, healthy, decarbonised and accessible to all
How much do New Zealand’s carbon emissions need to drop? How quickly? And what’s the best way?
These are the questions being tackled by the 1point5 project. We’ve mentioned this project twice in Weekly Roundup posts: its founder, Paul Winton, ran a webinar last week, hosted by the Association of Consulting and Engineering, and was interviewed by Vincent Heeringa for a podcast a few weeks ago, on This Climate Business.
Paul Winton has a PhD in engineering, is a former McKinsey consultant and is founder of Temple Capital Investment Specialists. His day job is to advise investors on what companies to start or to buy.
You may have heard of his earlier campaign with think tank The New Zealand Institute. Through that campaign, John Key was convinced to adopt a $1.5Bn investment into faster, fibre, broadband.
The 1point5 project has a bigger goal. When Paul realised the importance of keeping the world’s post-industrial temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, he:
embarked on a body of work that sought to understand how New Zealand could in the most pragmatic way meet the emerging requirements for the world under a one point five degree world, and out of that was born the 1.5 project
Paul’s background in engineering, business analysis, and campaigning seems a good background for this task, which requires:
- understanding the science, and using that knowledge to find visionary solutions,
- understanding how to communicate the need for these solutions to the public, and
- getting political, community and business buy-in.
He discussed risk recently, when working with the finance and engineering sectors:
I want to talk about the risk of action on climate change – not the risks of inaction which is what we hear most in the media – and what that might mean for different parts of New Zealand’s economy.
What would happen if we moved to meaningful action in New Zealand?
Which industries would fall first and when? …
And the spoiler for this discussion is that most companies’ recognition of the risks of climate change is woefully inadequate and in many cases extremely poor stewardship of investor funds.
Winton says it’s helpful to understand where people are at today, and where people’s interest drops off when it comes to addressing the crisis.
The Emissions Target
The first thing is what’s our target? And what’s really really clear – the scientists are really clear on this – is that we shouldn’t let the world go beyond 1 and a half degrees above pre-industrial levels. And what that means for New Zealand is that we need to reduce our emissions by about 60 percent by 2030.
In the following schematic, Paul transcribed the 6 pathways explored in the scenario modelling work prepared for the Productivity Commission as part of its work on understanding how New Zealand can transition to a low emissions economy. The heavy dashed line has been added by the 1point5 project. It shows the “global average” line New Zealand would take to meet the more ambitious target set by the IPCC to ensure the planet doesn’t exceed a temperature of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
I asked him about the challenging title:
The Productivity Commission work was an excellent body of work in its day, however that day only lasted six weeks until the release of the 2018 IPCC report which rendered its modelling hopelessly out of date. Commentators should no longer reference Productivity Commission scenarios as they don’t represent what’s needed for a 1.5C world.
I also asked him about New Zealand being a wealthy country, and whether he agreed this meant we should be reducing our emissions more than the global average. Paul did, quoting David Tong, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change International:
Consequently, in signing the Paris Agreement, the previous government agreed that New Zealand would cut its emissions faster than developing states (and, indeed, the Fourth National Government committed to the same thing in signing the UNFCCC too).
He also pointed out that the 60% reduction assumes that
we allow for some level of carbon capture and storage. If we don’t, per (https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/ figure SPM.3B) we need to globally follow Scenario P1 which is even higher.
When both these considerations are included, Paul considers the reductions required by 2030 might be closer to 70%.
I’m currently delving deeper into the latest greenhouse inventory (emissions estimates are always changing), and Auckland’s targets, which I will write about in a later post.
(Source: Robbie Andrew)
This graph shows the emissions pathways we could have had, and the choices we have now. In effect, it is a great visualisation of the carbon budget, something Greta Thunberg has so eloquently discussed. Our task isn’t just about reaching a particular level of emissions by a particular date. The earlier we reduce our emissions, the more carbon is left in our budget to ease the transition. The longer we leave it, the more sudden a change in lifestyle will be required.
This chart really resonates and illustrates how fast we need to move, which most people – including leading decision makers – don’t realise. In part [this is] due to the ongoing comment around Zero 2050. I also highlight the risk to businesses if government policy suddenly shifts. People would no longer be investing in carbon heavy assets that require a 30 year life.
We need to stop referring to zero by 2050 – it’s game over by then and really leaves too much wriggle room and fails to convey the real urgency. This whole exercise of decarbonisation largely plays out over the next decade to 2030 if we’re to have any hope of staying below the 1.5C limit.
So it’s all about the next 10 years. It’s up to 2030. So your question then becomes: “Well what’s the least hard way of doing that?” – because they’re probably all gonna be a bit hard.
And if you work through the options what you see is there’s about a third of that reduction we’ll get from “the market will get us there anyway”.
Transport needs to be almost entirely decarbonized by 2030 in order for New Zealand to play its role in 1.5, and the good thing about transport is it’s really doable. All of the solutions exist around the world today already we just need to take a pick-and-mix of them
So what does this mean for transport in Auckland? Speaking during Level 4:
Firstly urban corridors… We all want quieter and safer roads and we’ve seen that now like we’re walking around the streets kind of forgetting that they used to be dominated by cars.
As a first thing [I’d] have the crown committing upwards of one to two billion dollars to creating safe cycle corridors that allow short trips, the three to five minute kilometer trips to be cycled or e-scootered or e-cycled…
The second thing we could do is massively – and massively means a five to ten times increase in patronage – improve the public transport networks…
If we consider rolling out the light rail projects that are proposed. If we double the number of buses. If we roll out the CRL and it’s full. In fact if all of those things are full, that doesn’t even address the growth in the population we’re expecting in Auckland over the next decade. So those infrastructure projects are good. They’re absolutely fabulous and they’re necessary and they’re nowhere near enough.
So electrification is needed too:
We need to get Auckland and New Zealand really to the level of adoption of new-to-fleet electric vehicles that Norway’s at or was at last year, by 2025… if we do that then by around 2030 about a third of our cars will be electric… we could also use things like accelerated depreciation. We could change fringe benefits rules around low or no emissions vehicles
Better emissions standards:
[we need to] squash our emissions per internal combustion engine
On importing second-hand cars:
I think in terms of adopting and chasing Norway over the next few years we’re fine for the new fleet but we’re going to run into problems around the middle of the decade unless Japan sorts itself out in the next year or two and starts moving much more aggressively towards electrification the fleet.
we argue that it is very important that freight be decarbonized as well and that for the most part the market will get us a long way there.
Paul was asked what he’d include in the post-Covid stimulus package:
Don’t just build more roads. We’ve got enough road, we’ve got enough tarmac already. We need to invest in reallocating the current roads that we’ve got to safer and healthier, cycleable pathways.
The second thing we need to do. and this starts again with a don’t is: Don’t build satellite towns that will just create transport poverty and I’d use Drury in Auckland as an example of this…
Instead invest in a pipeline of high density and high quality urban development’s within the city that use innovative building techniques
MRCagney was sceptical about Winton’s conclusion but dissected his thinking over the summer, rebuilt the modelling its own way and, to its surprise, came to the same conclusion…
Every month that diesel and petrol vehicles are added to the fleet, and new roads built for them, locks in for decades the very behaviour that they argue must change.
MR Cagney is still refining the calculator, but even version one is a useful tool. It shows that business-as-usual planning and relying on electrification of the fleet for our carbon emissions reductions doesn’t work: it’ll drown the city in cars (worsening safety, congestion and accessibility) and – at about 85% fleet electrification – be both hugely expensive and highly unlikely.
I’ll post separately about the calculator and the insights it offers. Meanwhile, the 1point5 project is working:
to make sure that people are doing the things that have the most impact and amplify the voices of those that are already targeting a 1.5 degree world… We don’t need another loud voice but we need more effective voices.
All images have been taken from the website https://1point5.org.nz/