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.

One of the first tasks undertaken by the 1point5 project was a survey to see where the climate sentiment of New Zealanders sits:

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 ( 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.

The Solutions

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.

On freight:

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

Yesterday, Todd Niall reported on MR Cagney’s creation of an online emissions calculator to test the 1point5 project’s figures:

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

Share this


  1. “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.”

    On this: The Nissan Leaf has done more to drive EV uptake than any other car in NZ. You can get them for about $15K on TradeMe now. But they are time-bombs, effectively. Their batteries are awful, they are not actively cooled, and they wear many many times faster than Hyundai and Tesla cells. We need local capabilities to upgrade, refresh and restore these battery packs or else these cars are going to become expensive lawn ornaments. One company here has been experimenting with upgrading the battery packs in them, but they have missed out on LEVCF grants. Big box retailers, however, have been getting grants from this fund to install chargers outside their stores. These things probably shouldn’t be competing for the same funding. I’d like to see more attention given to the Blue Cars and EVs Enhanced of NZ so people can be less afraid of being left with a brick if they take the plunge.

      1. Blue Cars have a battery upgrade they’re working on and testing for Leafs. EVs Enhanced have a refurb/battery swap option.

  2. The comment about Drury makes sense as GA have pointed out before. New housing needs to be more central and it brings everyone’s average driving distances down.

    Gee, if Paul Winton is going to tackle the politicians on that issue, fantastic!

  3. What a post Heidi! Fantastic stuff and hope we hear a lot more from the 1point5 Project in the months ahead.

  4. The calculators cool bananas. So easy to see that you need a little bit of lots of things to happen, but the first two sliders do a lot of the work.

    Copenhagen is intending to increase its cycling, so I wonder why there isn’t a “better than Copenhagen” option? We’re only at the cycling numbers we’re at because we’ve not tried.

  5. I think Norway is a good country for New Zealand to follow. All we need to do is drill for oil off our coast, pump a huge amount of fossil fuels out and sell them to other countries being careful not to include that oil in your own carbon accounts. Then spend the huge income you get on expensive renewables and claim you are a world leader. We could do that.

  6. The cynic in me says that people won’t be giving up their cars unless there’s a massive economic crash and/or the government acts and restricts them.

    1. You might be interested in the survey results, Daniel. It gives a good overview of different perspectives in the population.

      1. I have been hearing concerns about the environment and climate change all my life from people who nonetheless eagerly indulge in automobile dependency. Talk is one thing, action is another.

        1. There has been a narrative that individual action is not important. Only collective action will fix climate change.

          It think though the individual action is important. 1. It provides social scale for action and in a related point 2. it’s a clear label for people who is serious about climate change.

    2. I doubt I will ever give up my car. But I would change to an electric one if they were affordable and had a better travel range. They are still a long way from being affordable but are getting close to a decent range. My next car won’t be an EV but the one after probably will be.

      1. Electric cars are not good for the environment either. They use a lot of rare metals in their batteries, are often made with carbon fibre and the inefficient allocation of energy inherent with automobiles doesn’t change, it just becomes electrical energy which in most nations is still generated by burning fossil fuels anyway.

        The problem was never internal combustion engines in themselves. The problem is too many of them being used inefficiently, much of which comes down to too many cars.

        1. The market economy can deal with that in the same way it provided oil. Kleptocrats and Robber Barons move in and force people from their ancestral lands, extract the resources at the lowest cost while turning the area into a polluted wasteland, sell the required resources and a small fraction above the production cost, leave the wasteland for others to worry about.
          Meanwhile people like me will be able to drive about with a smug disposition that we did our bit.

        2. Daniel whilst I agree that the first best solution is to have fewer cars, the impact of battery production on lifecycle energy consumption by electric cars has been overblown. EVs are still much better for the environment than ICU cars. US studies have shown that even in states where grid power is delivered from coal power plants, EVs result in a net saving of emissions compared to ICU cars within 2-3 years of purchase. There are already many scattered residential areas that will not be feasible to service by PT and as a minimum we will need EVs to service those places. So to me it is active travel, PT plus EVs. See this video for a good explanation, based on US data, but conclusion would be the same here.

        3. “They use a lot of rare metals in their batteries”

          Which rare metals?…and what is “a lot”? (NB: close to zero is not a lot)

          “often made with carbon fibre”
          How often?

          Numbers please Daniel. Let’s be scientific about this.

        4. @Sock Puppet
          That makes no sense.

          Electric cars aren’t that much lighter than cars with ICE’s. So they still require roughly the same energy to move around.
          The extraction of energy from fossil fuels is roughly the same from a power plant or an ICE. But with a car powered by an ICE; that energy then needs to be first transmitted then stored in batteries, which introduces losses.

          That video is not some concrete source.

        5. Internal combustion engines are extremely inefficient, they convert less than 20% of the energy in liquid fuels into power. And that’s after you’ve consumed a lot of energy shipping, refining and distributing the fuel.

          Even conventional dirty coal and oil plants fare much better, with 40 to 50% efficiency of turning embodied energy into electricity. And electric motors approach 100% efficiency converting the electricity into power.

        6. At the end of the day; Electric cars are NOT environmentally friendly. They’re not much if at all more environmentally friendly than an ICE car.

          If people really want to make a difference, they need to give up their cars altogether.

        7. @Daniel

          1L petrol is about 9.1 kWh.

          9.1 kWh in a Leaf is about 45-55 km.
          1L is a Corolla is about 25km.

          This is ignoring the transport costs to get the energy into the vehicle.

        8. @Nicholas Lee
          I don’t mean to be rude; but at the end of the day, the best any of you can claim is that electric cars aren’t as environmentally unfriendly. They’re still ba for the environment.

          But just one thing; Is it really fair to compare the leaf to a much larger & heavier Corolla? How about something as compact & light?

        9. “Is it really fair to compare the leaf to a much larger & heavier Corolla? How about something as compact & light?”

          The 2020 Leaf is 120 mm longer, 95 mm taller and 240 kg greater in mass than a 2020 Corolla. You are not making much sense here Daniel.

        10. @MFD
          Here we go; more endless nit-picking. Ho-hum, just what this site needs

          Length of E210 Corolla: 4.64m
          Width of E210 Corolla: 1.78m
          Height of E210 Corolla: 1.435m
          Weight of Corolla: 1.31t

          Length of Nissan Leaf: 4.49m
          Width of Nissan Leaf: 1.788m
          Height of Nissan Leaf: 1.53m
          Weight of Nissan Leaf: 1.58t

          So okay, I’m wrong and they Leaf is a little bit larger & heavier. But you’re wrong too, as the Corolla is longer contrary to your claims.

          But none of this has anything to do with the salient point: Electric cars are NOT good for the environment. Because they’re cars, and cars are inherently bad for the environment, and making them electric doesn’t alleviate that badness much (if at all).

        11. Daniel – I can see why you’re a bit frustrated with the ‘nitpicking’, you’re always very respectful when others make factual errors…

        12. “the Corolla is longer contrary to your claims”

          E210 hatchback is 4370 mm in length. The Leaf is a hatchback. Apples to apples, Daniel…and yes, you are wrong.

        13. @MFD
          “Apples to apples,”
          You don’t know that. Nicholas Lee never stated which model Corolla that was tested on.

        14. “Nicholas Lee never stated which model Corolla that was tested on.”

          Nick actually told me which one AND he told me it was “metallic Morrocan cerise”. Nick and I go way back via our mutual interest in 90s Romanian electronic dance music. We were at the East Tamaki and Central Districts Eastern European EDM Appreciation Society AGM earlier this evening (no groups larger than 10) and just before downing our 3rd sloe gin of the evening (and after fishing his monocle out of trifle) he let slip the details on that Toyota.

        15. @Jezza
          While I was incorrect about the size & weight comparison between the Nissan Leaf & latest Corolla’s (and for all we know; this estimate/test/whatever could’ve been with a Corolla from 25 years ago), I’ve been correct about everything else.

          It’s well known that the production of batteries in general let alone EV batteries is severely depleting the known sources of many metals including rare earths. There is a wealth of information about that out there.
          It’s a fact that many EV’s use a fair percentage of carbon fibre in their construction and just about all of them use carbon fibre components to some degree. Carbon fibre was enough of an environmental hazard when used in small batch production of sports cars and racing cars, but now they’re featuring in mass-produced everyday marks.
          And given that so much electricity generation across the world is still from fossil fuels, that there’s extra inefficiencies from line losses across distribution networks and battery charging, and that private automobiles are inherently such an inefficient usage of energy; I really don’t think that anyone impartial can deny that EV’s aren’t good for the environment.

          Maybe they’re not as overall bad for the environment as traditional ICE automobiles. But they’re still bad enough for the environment to be an environmental disaster.

        16. Luckily from sales figures you can tell people are starting to figure out the solution to both this problem and the problem that those batteries are very expensive. Smaller vehicles.

          The immediate problem with that in Auckland is that some people driving in cars tend to run these off the road.

          Also I thought generating electricity in a power plant from fossil fuel can be more efficient than the engines in cars. Because a power plant don’t need to be reasonably compact and reasonably light to fit in a moving car.

    3. There is a lot of options between not having a car and using your car as your default transport for every trip.
      I live in a town with no public transport. I try to walk or cycle to most things close to home rather than not drive. At the moment as a family we own two cars but we have been a car free family and I could see us doing it again if alternatives were available for some of our trips. I am really looking forward to passenger rail coming back to Canterbury and increased frequency between Palmerston North and Wellington.
      For short trips my bike is my default form of transport. I will leave two cars in the drive at home rather than use them for short trips.
      I really do think that when people have more options they will choose to not drive.

      1. “EVs are still much better for the environment than ICU cars. US studies have shown that even in states where grid power is delivered from coal power plants, EVs result in a net saving of emissions compared to ICU cars within 2-3 years of purchase. ”
        That may well be true, but if NZ has to reduce emissions by 50 or 60% by 2030 then just being better is not going to cut it.
        The figures released at the time of the feebate debate showed that there was a very real risk of NZ undershooting our carbon reduction targets because there was insufficient take up of EVS.

  7. Good discussion starter Heidi, I am missing references to the future drowning in Lithium batteries scenario and even though this is targeted to urban areas, NZ has got lots of rural structures within its urban areas that I think these need a mention, too.
    In more than one way but at least introducing readers to Regenerative Ag culture would be great. And people like Jaqueline Rowarth who just wrote a damning article in the Herald (of course! Why is this paper worth saving anyway??) against RegenAg and forgot to disclose that she’s on the board of Ravensdown??
    It all needs to be spilled- maybe bit by bit but with cross references to ensure it’s seen as holistic.
    But you’d be writing 48/7 to cover it all. Thanks for shaking us up into the right direction.

  8. Heidi didn’t mention Hydrogen in her post about the 1 point 5 project – the “usual” solution to electrification that Fossil Fuel advocates are hanging out for.

    In the “This Climate Business” podcast when Paul was interviewed for, he was asked about it but hedged his response on the basis that it might be needed for some situations (think Cook Straight Ferries or replacements for diesel powered line-haul trucks for freight).

    But to head off at the pass the “Hydrogen is the answer. Whats your question?” brigade.

    Here’s an interesting analysis/commentary about Hydrogen as a transport fuel from “The Drive” from last week which is a bit of a petrol head website most times.

    It is mainly written from a US perspective, but the US is further along the Hydrogen as a transport fuel path than we are right now, so it has some salient points and lessons in failures to avoid for NZ.

    Summary: Many think Hydrogen is a fuel that’s waiting to take its rightful place in transport.

    This is often seen in the form of this belief: “Hydrogen vehicles are the technology of the future.”

    For the TLDR crowd here’s the conclusion of that story: “And they always will be.”

    The cynic in me says agrees – especially by 2030 and adds a rider that while that may be true, its also likely that Hydrogen is still waiting for its place – mainly because its particular place, hasn’t yet been dug.

    I’d also say that Hydrogen may turn out to be the perfect transport fuel, it is also true that Hydrogen in transport, so far anyway, is almost a text book case of making “Perfect” solution the enemy of “Better” (or for Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) “Good enough”) solution that does the job.

    As The Drive article shows, while Battery Electric vehicles and charging infrastructure are not perfect. They are a lot “better” for the planet than both Fossil Fuels and the present Hydrogen fuel vehicles or infrastructure. Both now and for the next decade. Which is key for the 1 Point 5 goal.

    Are BEVs able to be good enough for most of the various transport fleets in NZ? Time will tell on that.

    One day I and others may be proven wrong on hydrogen. But like Fusion reactors, I or you, just may not be here to see the day they really do “get up & save the planet”.

    Meanwhile today, right now, I can and do drive and charge my BEV everywhere in NZ, doing so in a hydrogen fuelled car/truck/van/Bus or HPMV? Not so much

    1. H2 is not practical for light vehicles. Too much energy loss from generator to storage to wheels. It may be more practical for heavy transport due to different economics.

      One million km solid state batteries is the next step for the light transport sector.

      1. If you believe the hype, we could be looking at the one million mile battery by the end of this month on a relatively conventional Li-Ion model as opposed to solid state.

  9. Hard to reduce emissions by 60% when our population has increased by 25% over the past couple of decades (I think it was actually 17 years) with most of that gain coming from immigration. Without that high rate of immigration, our population level would be largely static as NZ births are below replacement level.

    1. Without immigration our population would fall over time, as we also have a significant amount of emmigration. The problem with this is not many people over 65 emmigrate so we would end up with less and less people to pay for the pension.

      1. I don’t think he is saying scrap immigration, it just doesn’t need to be the 1% of total population its been every year for the last 20yrs.

        Our immigration is way too high now that we don’t see as many Kiwis leaving or many are returning, as was the case pre-Covid.

        We need to have an honest conversation about the purpose of immigration, because right now it seems to be just about suppressing wages.

        1. “the purpose of immigration”

          You might as well talk about “the purpose of music” or “the purpose of hamburgers”. You’re not talking about a policy decision, you’re talking about what people choose to do. If you talk about “the purpose of immigration controls”, you’ll be closer to making sense. But then, the people who want to stop people coming here seem often to want to stop people who’re already here moving to Auckland, so they’re generally not amenable to reason. (I leave aside the issue of how ridiculous it is to hear Pākehā talking about how we can stop any more people coming to live here.)

          And immigration doesn’t lower wages. Immigration CONTROLS lower wages because they create an underclass of refugees/overstayers who can be threatened with deportation if they don’t take whatever their employer dishes out.

        2. No, I was talking about the policy. I am not against immigration, we will always have it and need it and with that I have no issue. And I couldn’t care less where they come from.

          My point was figure out why you want and need immigration and to what extent. It seems we are sticking to a 20yr old policy that isn’t fit for purpose in 2020. or at least it hasn’t delivered the outcomes we wanted. Note, I am not talking about refugee quotes etc, but the broader policy.

          Have to disagree on the wages part. people are being bought in as “skilled migrants” for wages Kiwis won’t (quite rightly) do the same job for.

          I can this spiralling off topic….

        3. If 1 % is not OK now, then the obvious question is why was it OK in the post war period or pre-1900? Why is 4 million OK but not 5 million?

          As for the Covid blip it is likely to be temporary. We tend to loose people to Australia, while gaining people from the rest of the world. The latter isn’t likely to happen for some time. We have had roughly twice the number of departures than arrivals by air for the last few weeks, although I’m not sure of the visitor to resident breakdown.

        4. I was more focused on the last 20-30yrs, which really seemed to be filling the gap arising from departing Kiwis, as well as providing a pool labour that will work for less than what businesses should be paying.

          I don’t think the former applies to the same extent anymore (while still a gap I think it had closed in recent years?) , and I’m not sure if the latter is right on moral grounds as well as our infrastructure deficit (which has arisen because of a lack of investment, rather than solely immigration).

          On the right number for population, I have no idea myself and I have no idea on what the major parties think. But a re-look might help provide us with a goal and a coherent plan.

        5. You could ask why it was OK to sprawl housing over the countryside pre 1900 or in the postwar period? The answer is obvious, more and more eventually runs into diminishing returns. We can never have an honest discussion about NZ’s sky high immigration rateof the past 10 years because of this sort of diversionary nonsense. It took a global pandemic to stop the headlong rush, now we can see what happens without the excessive population growth.

  10. If we ACTUALLY wanted to do something in our powers that would make a meaningful difference to saving the planet then we need to look at our fishing waters. In the last election the National Party proposed to turn the Kermadec into an Ocean fish sanctuary.

    This 15% area of the Worlds oceans, 620,000 sq km, identified as a globally important marine area.

    This change would have made massive change to the health of the planet, far more than reducing our 0.1% contribution to CO2 issue.

  11. Heidi well done on a well researched and well written article. On car emissions, as you may be aware another scandal in Australia and New Zealand is that the on-road (real world) fuel consumption and emissions of our cars in sale is considerably worse than manufacturers claim. This is not only true for VW and dieselgate. Recent on-road testing by the AAA showed all but 1 of 30 cars tested failed to achieve claimed fuel economy by an average of 23%. 11 of 12 diesels tested failed to meet emission standards for NOx that is harmful to health. So the vehicles are NOT getting greener. The lies are getting bigger instead. This is blatant false advertising. As a minimum, tax subsidies should be banned for vehicles that do not meet their performance promises to consumers. See

    1. Thanks, Sock Puppet. The public has shown little interest in these points, too, which is worrying. The MoT has been tracking false manufacturer claims for a while.

      Then there’s the FBT exemption for double cab utes which the IRD advises shouldn’t make much difference in practice because the travel has to be required for the work, but which in reality has indeed led to many high emissions (and less safe) double cab utes being purchased in preference to suitable family cars.

      Might start to dig out some info on this … if you see any, do let me know.

      1. Heidi as a matter of fact I have been doing some work on that. The tax exemptions for dual cab utes have been a disaster for environmental and health outcomes. The market share of utes has increased dramatically in recent years in parallel. Five of the top ten selling vehicles in NZ in 2019 were (large) utes averaging 2 tonnes each. Utes now have a 26% market share, compared to 10% a decade ago. They are also being driven a lot more. On data from the Australian motor vehicle survey (2018) utes and commercial cars average around 18,000 km/year compared to 13,000 for all vehicles.


        Australian data on the same point (they buy similar cars)

        Australian evidence fleet efficiency is going backwards

        1. Does any of this show that the tax exemption has caused this? Does Australia have an exemption as well?

          It may just show that these vehicles have been well marketed and are popular. I don’t think it required a tax exemption for SUVs to start becoming popular from the late 1990s onwards.

        2. That’s part of what I want to understand. How much does a slight tax differential make? Because the other side of this is marketing. Marketing for cigarettes has been controlled. Marketing for any product that impacts public health and compromises our environmental goals could be controlled.

        3. Jezza
          Yes Australia does have a generous tax exemption for load carrying vehicles (includes any ute > 1 tonne capacity) and they do not have to keep log books. So these vehicles get bought, used for work and private purposes, and it all gets written off on tax. Correlation does not prove causation, but there is a strong correlation between the tax benefits and the rise in their market share.

        4. Sock Puppet – thanks for the info. If I’m right these tax exemptions have been around for a lot longer than the period that ute numbers have exploded, I haven’t managed to find confirmation of that though.

          I agree the tax imbalance should be removed or at least the burden of proof be put on the employer not the IRD, however I’m not convinced it has caused the explosion in ute numbers.

        5. The idea that double cab utes are exempt from FBT because they’re a type of commercial vehicle. There’s no singular exemption specifically for utes, they also have to meet other criteria as well, one of which is that employees can’t use them for personal reasons and that you perform checks that they’re actually following this rule. It’s fair to say many people winged it and the idea that utes were exempt for FBT by default became one of those ‘my mate’s accountant said this’ yarns.

          The rules around FBT changed a few years back however where small companies could nominate vehicles to be exempt for FBT and you could only claim the business portion of your running costs (and not 100%) so I’m not sure this is relevant anymore.

          But, having seen how effective this ‘misunderstanding’ was at promoting ute ownership, do we come up with a similar exemption for EVs and accept that there’s a greater good in having more EVs bought and then filtering through as second hand affordable vehicles?

        6. “EVs are still much better for the environment than ICU cars. US studies have shown that even in states where grid power is delivered from coal power plants, EVs result in a net saving of emissions compared to ICU cars within 2-3 years of purchase. ”
          That may well be true, but if NZ has to reduce emissions by 50 or 60% by 2030 then just being better is not going to cut it.
          The figures released at the time of the feebate debate showed that there was a very real risk of NZ undershooting our carbon reduction targets because there was insufficient take up of EVS.

        7. Thanks mr wizard. I think maybe there’s some confusion between tax exemptions and deductible expenses.

          Regardless, I don’t think this is why they’ve become so popular. I think it’s because they’ve improved so much from tiny trucks to cars with a little tray on the back.

  12. It could never happen in ten years unless the government went renegade and rammed through legislation overriding what people want.

    Don’t forget, for every electric car New Zealanders buy, they buy 274 twin cab diesel utes. That’s to say nothing of the petrol cars they buy, which are increasingly SUVs. In fact car manufacturers are now producing more utes and SUVs than small cars. That’s a response to demand by the people.

    But the main question is this: What difference will such dramatic change by New Zealand make on the world’s climate, given that is highly probably the big countries won’t follow through?

    1. The “we are so small” argument is why we should sell these changes as improving our own backyard. Because we currently treat it like a toilet.

      If there are spinoffs for our contribution to addressing climate change (which there would be), great.

  13. Good post thanks many good points.

    Agreed that the 2050 goals are too far away & lofty for people to take realistically perceive taking action on now.

    Subsidies etc for electric vehicle uptake is perhaps more politically palatable than taxing ICE’s which people & businesses will take as a threat.

  14. I think you’d classify those transport projects with good benefit-cost ratios as low hanging emissions fruit. But good on Todd Niall and MRCagney for starting to help people understand that they won’t do much to move the emissions dial.

    I don’t want to be too critical of Paul Winton without having yet looked at his work, but otherwise I don’t think you can say that a lot of the remaining transport emissions are low hanging fruit. It’s been a little while since I looked at the numbers, but if I recall correctly electrification of the light vehicle fleet is costly compared to benchmark mitigation costs, while the cost of carbon mitigation even for projects like the CC2M light metro are off the charts.

    I think NZ should be targeting keeping ahead of the pack of countries with similar economies and geographical dispersion – like Aus, Canada and the US. Australia in particular – because if we lead them that might influence their behaviour, which in turn might have more impact on other countries. If that means targeting Net Zero sooner than 2050 all good, but it wasn’t clear from the article text why we should target Net Zero by 2030.

    Even so, if we did target Net Zero by 2030 that doesn’t mean eliminating transport emissions by then. Its Net Zero emissions, not Absolute Zero – meaning we can do a lot with trees and land conversion and still have some emissions while the costs of other technology improves. And trees and land conversion make up the bulk of the genuine low hanging emissions fruit for New Zealand.

    If we are going to make the sort of progress that could influence the rest of the world at an affordable price a lot of the heavy lifting in the near-term will need to be done by trees and land conversion, while we still go ahead those public transport and other initiatives that make sense from a cost of mitigation perspective.

  15. Cars are ruinous. We need to only work on strategies that actively reduce car dependency and ownership for most. I propose working to a target of 1 dangerous heavy vehicle (electric and shared, of course) to 10 New Zealanders by 2030. Currently we have 8.6 dangerous polluting heavy private vehicles to every 10 of us. Insane. We can do better!

  16. “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.”

    For me this is the starting point of the conversation. Would it be economically more efficient to bank the $20 billion plus that is going to be spent on new roads in the next ten years and find more environmentally friendly ways to travel.

  17. The worldwide Covid19 lock downs have reduced global carbon outputs by 17% vs 2019 levels. Australia’s was down by 28%. This is useful in that it shows the level of fall in activity required to bring about these changes. However, that was vs 2019 levels. The magnitude of change required to meet a target of 1.5 or 2% warming is much greater than that. Many countries never implemented a full lock down. It shows that a paradigm shift is required in terms of new technologies if those targets are to be met without closing down whole economies.

  18. So you are not prepared to state what these “rare” metals are and how many of them are in EV batteries and in what quantities.

    Let’s review the link that you provided in which it is claimed that cobalt, lithium, nickel and copper are in short supply due to demand “going ballistic” and urging more investment in mining. How is this evidence of these metals being “rare”? Palladium and osmium are rare. Copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt are plentiful.
    EV batteries have been steadily decreasing in cost over the past decade. Hardly the signature of something made with “rare” metals.

  19. “And can you name an EV that’s not made with a carbon-fibre body?”

    Nissan Leaf
    Hyundai Ioniq
    Hyundai Kona
    Volkwagen e Golf
    Audi e-tron
    Jaguar I Pace
    Renault Zoe

    I could go on but it is you, Daniel, that has made the bizarre claim that EVs are “often” made with carbon fibre. How about you provide some evidence.

    1. Hmm, have you ever heard of the BMW i3? It’s one of the most popular EV’s

      In any case; all of those you listed have extensive Carbon-fibre components.

  20. Great post Heidi and thank you Paul Winton. Just wanted to respond to a few points. “This chart really resonates and illustrates how fast we need to move, which most people – including leading decision makers – don’t realise.” I think the decision makers (relevant ministers and civil servants, and the Climate Change Commission) do realise this. But the government and civil service are constrained by politics. Only the CCC can advise unreservedly. Therefore, I expect things to get real next February when the CCC deliver their first carbon budget. However, the political problems of gaining support for the kinds of changes needed will remain.

    On the cuts needed for 1.5ºC: there’s a risk here of reopening the agricultural methane debate which has been really divisive and distracting for New Zealand. But I agree that the official scenarios are too slack as they are based on too much planting of trees and not enough cutting of fossil fuel burning. All proposals should be looked at in terms of how much they contribute to ending the burning of fossil fuels.

    Despite this article attracting a lot of comments, it’s all turned into a back-and-forth about the merits or otherwise of EVs. What about Paul and Heidi’s basic point about eliminating road transport emissions in Auckland?

    No matter how much government money is poured into active and public transport, cars are still subsidized and cutting the use of fossil-fueled cars is going to have to involved pricing or regulation. Norway used prices but I don’t think NZers will be ready soon for doubling the price of petrol or of new petrol cars. Look at the fuss over the proposed feebate. It could be tripled in size and still not reach Norway-like levels.

  21. Yes, great post Heidi and thanks for bringing Paul Winton’s work to wider attention.

    With this Covid event we now have a real opportunity to make big steps forward, and we have a government that says it’s listening, and now has the funding ready to go.*

    To achieve our decarbonisation targets, NZ is lucky to be small, which makes it easy to make big changes quickly, e.g.:

    – make all our buildings better insulated and more energy-efficient so we don’t waste energy heating/cooling the outside air, e.g., modern techniques can save 75% of the energy currently used (e.g., see here:, meaning we can electrify our vehicle fleet without having to build any new large-scale electricity generation any time soon (and if we do need new generation, that can be renewable);

    – provide public transport and active transport corridors and options everywhere in NZ, starting in the cities and then moving out to the towns and rural areas, to provide real choices and reduce the vehicle-demand on our existing road-space (and reduce road maintenance costs, etc.) and thus reduce the use of private motor vehicles (thus reducing health costs, repair costs, etc.);

    – upgrade/reinstate, electrify and expand our railway network so that it reaches all ports, cities and major towns along direct routes, closing gaps in the network (e.g., Pokeno-Paeroa-duplicated Kaimai Tunnel, Tauranga-Rotorua-Taupo-Turangi-Waiouru, Whakatane-Gisborne, Tokoroa-Taupo-Napier, Blenheim-Nelson-Inangahua) and adding bypasses (e.g., Papakura-Pokeno, Ohinewai-Morrinsville, Tirau-Cambridge-Te Awamutu) and long-proposed nation-building extensions (e.g., Kaikohe-Kaitaia);

    – ban the import of high-emission vehicles, only allow the import of low/no-emission vehicles, and promote locally-produced low/no-emission alternatives (e.g., e-bikes, e-jet skis, e-boats, etc.);

    – electrify our residual fleet of existing cars, utes, trucks, buses, trains, ships, planes and plant by retrofitting electrical power units into them, in a phased way between now and 2030, starting with the oldest/most polluting vehicles, to conserve all the materials already embedded in the existing vehicle fleet, and recycle the materials in the ICEs removed to be used in the new electric power units, fabricated by our local manufacturers and installed by local service dealers/garages (allowing exemptions for classic/vintage/sports vehicles, only for use off-road), saving the sector from collapse;

    – renationalise all large-scale electricity generation and distribution in NZ to avoid windfall profits, minimise charges, and return revenue to NZ Government (local off-grid electricity generation/distribution could be privately or community-owned);

    – promote regenerative farming and agroforestry to 100% implementation by 2030, directly paying farmers to do it and guaranteeing their per hectare incomes (this should absorb all of NZ’s residual emissions, and more);

    – promote reafforestation with native trees to restore/rehabilitate native wildlife habitats (native trees store 40 times more carbon than pines, e.g., see here:;

    – repurpose Marsden Point refinery to sustainably produce sustainable and recyclable hydrocarbon products (e.g., polymers) using NZ-sourced hydrocarbon resources (e.g., oil, gas, condensates, methane, peat wax, lignite, coal, biomass, etc.);

    All of the up-front costs of this can be financed and funded directly by the NZ Government, with the net savings and benefits to users being recovered over time via user charges, levies, taxes, etc., to avoid the accumulation of windfall profits.

    (* money is not a problem: RBNZ directly buying bonds from NZ Government is ‘free money’ because RBNZ repays net interest back to NZ Government (RBNZ’s owner), and can roll-over the bonds indefinitely (it doesn’t need to be ‘paid back’), without causing inflation as the same amount of $s need to be spent now anyway, and can be taxed out later if inflation ever reaches RBNZ’s 2% target, which is unlikely to occur seeing as we are on the verge of a severe recession/depression with most commodities prices falling worldwide due to depressed demand.)

    1. Nice list.

      Do you see any possibility of offering funding to farmers for revegetation / regenerative agriculture assistance in return for allowing pathways through their farms (generally, parallel -ish to the road) to create a sustainable low-carbon path network for bikes, ebikes, pedestrians, horses?

      1. Yes Heidi, I was thinking this as part of the deal for funding conversion to regenerative: as regenerative increases productivity and profitability (*) by x% per year, ~x% per year of the most marginal/unusable land on the farm is made tax exempt if it is given over to revegetation in native habitat, including riparian buffer zones creating green pathways for flora and fauna (many farmers are already doing this, it also helps prevent soil erosion and runoff going into streams, lakes, etc.), and this would also include buffer zones along boundaries, with hedgerows/windbreaks and pathways for bikes, ebikes, pedestrians, horses; the tax exemption could even be accompanied with a bonus rebate paid to farmers in return for the provision of habitat and accessibility.

        (* see this example from Central Otago: – if it’s possible there, it’s possible anywhere in NZ – but the attitude of fertiliser/spray agents and rural bankers needs to be nullified by having the government directly paying and incentivising farmers to do it)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *