Earlier this year the Climate Change Commission (CCC) consulted on their draft recommendations to the government on how to meet our domestic 2030 and 2050 emissions targets. There was certainly a lot to be positive about in it, particularly the linking of transport emissions to urban form but at the same time we also felt they weren’t anywhere near ambitious enough around the potential role for mode-shift in helping to meet our targets. This would result in New Zealand needing a much larger and faster update of electric vehicles, a prospect something the Ministry of Transport don’t think was feasible in their current consultation on ways to reduce emissions.
We have recommended three areas for the Government to focus on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport. They are:
- Reducing the reliance on cars (or light vehicles) and supporting people to walk, cycle and use public transport. Government needs to support this change with clear targets, plans to meet those targets, and substantial increases to funding.
Local government plays an important role in changing how people travel, and it needs more support from central government to do the job well. This includes enabling them through legislation, removing regulatory barriers, and providing increased and targeted funding.
- Rapidly adopting electric vehicles (EVs). Ambitious policies are needed to address supply and cost constraints, and bring more EVs into the country. Aotearoa should import more efficient vehicles until EVs are widely available and affordable.
- Beginning work now to decarbonise heavy transport and freight. Government should develop a national low-emissions freight strategy, that includes moving more freight by rail and sea. It should also encourage the production and use of low emissions fuels, such as biofuels, electricity, and green hydrogen.
Changes in our final advice
Our final advice is more ambitious, compared to our 2021 Draft Advice for Consultation, around shifting the way New Zealanders travel and supporting better infrastructure for walking and cycling. It places less emphasis on private vehicle use, although accelerating EV uptake is still key to achieving our emissions budgets.
We have moved the section on urban form to the multi-sector chapter, and have conducted further analysis into this area to highlight its system-level importance.
More detail on the benefits of reducing emissions from transport, including health and environmental benefits, have been added.
We heard through consultation that the role of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen for heavy transport, was underplayed in our 2021 Draft Advice for Consultation. In response, we have been more fuel-neutral in our discussion of low-carbon fuel options.
We have also taken a broader and more ambitious approach to heavy transport and freight, which considers efficiency and shifting to lower-emissions alternatives such as shipping and rail, rather than solely focusing on increasing low-carbon fuels.
As for the recommendations themselves, here are the specifics for the first one – reducing reliance on cars.
And that leads to these progress indicators.
It’s great that they took onboard then need to be more ambitious and want targets for mode-shift but it’s a shame they haven’t put any figures around what that should be. Though I guess the work from the Ministry of Transport will help significantly in that regard and they suggest that we’ll need to reduce the number of kilometres we travel in light vehicles by 40% by 2035 and over 55% by 2050.
For the trips we can’t avoid or shift to other modes we will need to increase the uptake of electric vehicles and the CCC have recommendations for that seem similar to the draft, including suggestions such as a ban on new vehicles with internal combustion engines sometime between 2030 and 2035 and other measures to improve uptake.
And on that issue, on Sunday Transport Minister Michael Wood announced the government would introduce a rebate scheme, similar to what was consulted on during the previous term but then blocked by NZ First.
Clean car package to drive down emissions
- New rebates for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles start July 1 with up to $8,625 for new vehicles and $3,450 for used.
- Electric vehicle chargers now available every 75km along most state highways to give Kiwis confidence.
- Low Emission Transport Fund will have nearly four times the funding by 2023 to continue to grow the nationwide EV charging network and support other low emission refuelling networks.
- Electric Vehicle Buyers Guide available to help guide potential buyers.
- Govt intends to set up EV sector leadership group to help increase uptake.
- Proposed Sustainable Biofuels Mandate to prevent over a million tonnes of emissions while Kiwis switch over to electric.
- The Government is taking action in line with the advice of the Climate Change Commission to increase the uptake of low emission vehicles by introducing a range of measures that will help meet New Zealand’s 2050 carbon neutral target and create jobs to support the economic recovery.
“Our transport emissions are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand so we need to start taking action now if we are going to meet our 2050 targets,” Transport Minister Michael Wood said.
“New Zealand is actually lagging behind on the uptake of EVs, so we are playing catch up internationally. Our monthly registrations of EVs are around half the global average and sales are well below the 50 per cent of monthly sales seen in some European countries.
“We’ve already committed to policies that will make a difference, like the Clean Car Import Standard, decarbonising the public transport bus fleet and revitalising rail, but we have to do more.
“A discount on electric, hybrid and low emission vehicles funded from a fee on higher emitting ones is the best policy to increase low emissions vehicle uptake in New Zealand.
“It’s a common policy overseas, a recommendation of both the Climate Commission and the Productivity Commission, and is supported by the likes of the Motor Industry Association – it’s time to get moving with it.
“The Clean Car Discount will make it cheaper for New Zealanders to buy electric and low emission cars. It will prevent up to 9.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and will help with the upfront cost of switching over with Kiwis getting up to $8,625 back.
“We’ve made some changes to the policy proposed last term, so only cars under $80,000 and safer models are eligible for rebates. Rebates will begin from July 1 while fees on higher emitting vehicles to help fund the scheme won’t begin until 1 January 2022. The rebates will also expand from 1 January to include low emission vehicles, not just electric and plug-in hybrids.
“Importantly the policy only applies to new and used cars arriving in New Zealand, so the existing second hand market of cars that lower income families tend to purchase from will not be affected.
The government have also given an indication of what the rebates and fees would be once fully implemented.
They’ve also provided indications of what the changes will mean for some of the most common vehicles being sold.
And the process
In general this seems pretty good and it’s great to see the government following through with it despite the criticism from some. The main criticism seems to be that it’s some form of reverse Robinhood – taking from the poor to give to the rich. This seems to be a bad strawman argument mainly by those just wanting to maintain the status quo. Here are a couple of reasons but there are many more.
- Those in lower socio-economic groups are much less likely to be buying new cars and existing cars in the fleet are exempt from any charges.
- As the examples above show, there are plenty of vehicles which have emissions low enough that they attract no fee, people can always go for those.
- Climate change doesn’t care about socio-economic status and so we need to do something. What’s the alternative they suggest?
Noticeably some vehicle manufacturers are already making the most of it.
The main additional thing I’d like to see is for it, or some other scheme, to also apply to e-bikes. That top level rebate could easily pay for up to six e-bikes and combined with better and faster roll out of bike infrastructure could make a significant dent in both emissions and congestion.
Finally, this along with other recent announcements such as the changes to the NZ Upgrade Programme and light rail do highlight the government, or at least Michael Wood, are starting to get serious about climate change. There’s obviously a lot more to do but so far seems Wood could end up the most positively transformational Minister of Transport we’ve seen – and long may he continue.