Today the government are releasing their Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP), with the details released to the public at midday. The ERP:
“will set out exactly how the Government plans to deliver on the first emissions budget. The Minister of Finance will also outline the first investments from the Climate Emergency Response Fund on the same day”.
One of the first things we’ll be looking for is to see just how much the ERP has changed from the draft that was released and consulted on last year. I’m picking there will be some minor changes, but that by and large it will remain the same – including the four high-level targets, which were:
- Reduce vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by cars and light vehicles by 20 per cent by 2035 through providing better travel options, particularly in our largest cities.
- Increase zero-emissions vehicles to 30 per cent of the light fleet by 2035.
- Reduce emissions from freight transport by 25 per cent by 2035.
- Reduce the emissions intensity of transport fuel by 15 per cent by 2035.
But the most important aspect that we’re looking for will be the policy and funding initiatives the government are looking to implement in order to achieve those targets. So, I thought I’d list some of the things we expect to see, and the things we hope we’ll see.
Things we expect we’ll see:
Longterm PT fare reductions
In reducing fuel taxes and public transport fares recently, the government hinted that the PT fare drop, or something like it, may become permanent. Given the comments so far, I expect we’ll see a commitment around making fare reduction permanent, though I’m not sure it will be the exact 50% reduction we currently have.
As I discussed last week, it appears road pricing, or [de]congestion pricing as it’s commonly known, will be part of the announcement. It’s a proposal that’s already been unanimously supported by Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee – and National Party leader Christopher Luxon was on that committee when that happened. Announcing this won’t mean road pricing comes in immediately, however, as there is a lot of work needed first, including legislative changes.
So, I’m picking that if pricing is included in today’s announcement, it will be that the government will proceed with enabling legislation and possibly a programme to of work to finalise the details of an Auckland scheme, such as working out the exact boundaries and charges that will initially apply, as well as starting to scope and design the technology components etc.
Strategic Communications Funding
Most of us now accept the need to address climate change and want our country to do that – but many still don’t want to personally have to change how they travel, and will tend to oppose initiatives to make alternatives to driving easier. So, along with initiatives to reduce emissions there needs to be a strong communications strategy helping to explain why change is needed and the types of things that can be done to achieve it.
Stuff reported on the weekend that this was a likely announcement:
Climate Change Minister James Shaw hinted that a public information campaign would be part of the Emissions Reduction Plan to be released on Monday, noting the Climate Change Commission had recommended this type of approach.
In its final advice, the commission proposed the Government “establish a lead agency and a dedicated fund to support behaviour change”.
Things we hope to see:
Funding for improved PT Services
While lowering PT fares is welcome, the biggest driver in the use of PT is the quality of service, such as the frequency, reliability and speed of services. In most places across NZ, we need to do a lot better in this regard. So, we want to see the government put more funding and central government focus in to achieving this so that PT can become a viable alternative for a lot more people.
In Auckland for example, we need more services to run at the ‘frequent’ standard, and for that frequent standard to be improved from a service every 15 minutes, 7am to 7pm, to every 10 minutes from 6am to 9pm. Funding this could be an ideal use of some of the road pricing revenue.
The government’s Clean Car Scheme sees rebates given for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are funded by fees for high-emitting vehicles.
We think the government should expand the scheme, or create a separate one, to offer rebates on e-bikes. E-bikes aren’t cheap, but are already far more affordable than electric cars and many e-bike users find they are able to replace many, if not all of their car journeys with them. They also have the benefit of requiring far fewer materials to build and need even less electricity to run. This could help bring the cost of e-bikes down, potentially even (especially with something like a targeted rebate) making them a viable option for lower income households – something electric cars won’t be.
More Cycleway Funding
To go with making e-bikes easier to afford, we could also do with more safe places to ride them. More funding is clearly needed – with Auckland looking for at least another $1.7 billion over the next decade to deliver a meaningful network that would meet demand and start to shift the carbon dial, but even that is just a fraction of what’s needed.
We also need to get better at delivering networks of cycleways for all ages, faster, and delivering them more affordably.
Make Road Reallocation Easier
Changing road space allocation can be hard, not because it’s technically challenging but because of cumbersome bureaucratic processes and local authorities being made nervous by change-hesitant locals whose voices are amplified by click-bait focused media, while those who’d use the new road-space struggle to be heard.
The government has already shown a willingness to override local authorities’ hesitancy to change housing/planning rules, with the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) and the Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) – both of which will result in significant changes to what can be built in our cities.
Perhaps it’s time for the government to do the same for road space allocation. For example, they could require that local authorities are not allowed to provide on-street parking on arterials unless safe cycling and bus priority are first provided for. This is not a magic bullet that will make bike lanes appear everywhere overnight, but it might help in reducing some of the resistance to change by local authorities.
An Active Travel Commissioner
The government should take a leaf out of the UK’s book and establish an Active Travel agency to lead and oversee progress for low-carbon travel. In the UK the agency, Active Travel England (ACE), is intended to:
create safer streets for cycling and walking to boost air quality and help improve the health and wellbeing of the nation
Active Travel England has sharp regulatory teeth, in line with the principles set out in Gear Change – the UK government’s fantastic walking and cycling policy. For example, these are just two of the agency’s tasks:
- inspect finished schemes and ask for funds to be returned for any that have not been completed as promised
- inspect, and publish reports on, highway authorities for their performance on active travel, and identify particularly dangerous failings in their highways for cyclists and pedestrians
Furthermore, the policy states:
Active Travel England’s assessment of an authority’s performance on active travel will influence the funding it receives for other forms of transport
Implementing these policies here would certainly help focus the minds of local authorities.
A Mode Shift Fund
As well as funding and initiatives to make alternative modes easier to use, it would be useful to have a general fund for other mode-shift initiatives. This could be used for things such as implementing low traffic neighbourhoods, Innovating Streets-style initiatives, events such as regular Open Streets and play streets, and better funded travel planning tools and teams to help people better understand – and try out – alternative options for getting around.
What else do you think expect or want to see announced today?
We’ll find out at midday.