Yesterday the Climate Change Commission released their final advice for the government’s second Emission Reduction Plan which will run from 2026 to 2030. Notably they titled the release: Government policies must add up to achieve climate goals

While the Commission’s analysis shows the country has made progress, it is not on track to meet its climate goals for the end of this decade. This risks missing out on benefits like new jobs, a more resilient economy and healthier communities.

The Commission’s advice makes 27 recommendations to the Government, focused on areas where there are critical gaps in action, or where efforts need to be strengthened or accelerated. This includes:

    • Build more renewable electricity, such as solar, wind, and geothermal, and ensure networks keep up with growing and variable demand
    • Support moves to swap fossil fuels for renewable energy in heating and industry
    • Retrofit buildings so they are healthier, more resilient, lower emissions and cheaper to run
    • Avoid installing new fossil gas in buildings where there are affordable low emissions alternatives.
    • Encourage households and businesses to switch to electric vehicles
    • Make it easier for more people to choose public or active transport
    • Prepare for the rapid roll-out of low emissions technologies and practices on farms
    • Directly resource iwi/Māori efforts to reduce climate pollution
    • Sort out the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme and the role of forests
    • Commit to how much climate pollution must be cut at its source
    • Manage the impacts of climate policy on people, businesses and communities using existing policy options while a broader strategy is developed

Between 2026–2030, the country needs to reduce its climate pollution by the equivalent of 43.5 megatonnes of carbon dioxide – about the same as 3.6 million cars would produce in the same period. Around 40% of the cuts are expected to come from energy and industry.

“The biggest opportunity is to replace fossil fuels – like coal, gas and petrol – with renewable energy, to power our industries, our buildings and our transport systems. This is a critical step where, in many cases, investments made now in energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and renewable energy will more than pay for themselves in the long term,” Dr Carr says.

Given we focus primarily on transport, here’s some of the things from the transport section that stood out.


Transport is one of the largest single areas of greenhouse gas emissions, making up about 18% of Aotearoa’s gross emissions, and making it one of the biggest opportunities for change. How we can make changes to our transport emissions will be nothing new to regular readers but it’s good to lay it out anyway.

More than 90% of those emissions come from road transport. Nearly 70% of road emissions come from light vehicles (those under 3.5 gross tonnes) and about 30% come from heavy vehicles (those over 3.5 gross tonnes). The remaining transport emissions are from domestic aviation (6%), shipping (1.5%) and rail (less than 1%)

The advice in this chapter builds on our analysis for the first emissions reduction plan (outlined in Ināia tonu nei). It presents the Government’s options to drive the change needed to achieve its budgeted emissions reductions in the transport system – from an annual average of 16.5 MtCO2e in the first emissions budget to an annual average of 11.4 MtCO2e in the third emissions budget (for 2031–2035) – including a reduction of 7–8 MtCO2e between 2026 and 2030.

Our analysis, supported by internationally recognised approaches, shows that emissions can be reduced by avoiding, shifting, and improving transport use. This includes finding ways to reduce unnecessary travel while maintaining or improving accessibility, shifting to low emissions transport modes, and improving the emissions efficiency of the transport fleet. For example, reducing trip distances and changing short trips to active transport (walking and cycling) can help achieve the Government’s target of reducing Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) in the light vehicle fleet by 20%, relative to the baseline projection, by 2035.

Like with the previous advice from both the Climate Commission and Ministry of Transport, the report says the focus needs to be on on the avoid, shift and then improve hierarchy.

  • Avoid measures reduce the need to travel and the time and distance travelled while improving or maintaining accessibility through, for example, changes to urban form
  • Shift measures change how people move, enabling greater use of public transport, cycling, and walking
  • Improve measure increase the emissions efficiency of transport, for example through electrifying vehicles to eliminate tailpipe emissions.

A big part of both avoid and shift comes down to increasing the use of walking, cycling and public transport

Walking, cycling, and public transport can provide zero or low emissions forms of transport and contribute to reducing emissions. International evidence indicates that when comparing cities with and without walking, cycling, and public transport networks, those with such networks can reduce emissions and pollution substantially. These reductions are enhanced when paired with changes to urban form, as we discuss in Chapter 11: Built environment.

International research from the Institute for Transport and Development Policy has shown that biking networks and smart public transport upgrades yield high rates of decarbonisation on a per-dollar-expended basis, by supporting a shift to these lower emissions modes (as illustrated in Figure 15.2). This is compared to highway spend that induces demand for private vehicle use and creates higher emissions. Providing more options for New Zealanders increases the opportunities to for co-benefits to health, economies, and wellbeing.

Figure 15.2: Carbon reduction efficiency per dollar spent (USD)

Source: Institute for Transport and Development Policy

They note that if the government enacted the recommendations of the report it could see the share of kilometres travelled by active and public transport modes increase from 5% to 11% by 2030, which is still well below levels achieved already in Europe, which is around 17.6%.

And in order to achieve that kind of outcome, they say more dedicated funding is needed but also that more streamlined funding and planning processes are required.

Another interesting aspect in the report is on the adoption of electric vehicles. Importantly they note that the rate of new EVs being sold is actually tracking ahead of the path previously set. the increase above the path clearly started in mid-2021, which is exactly when the Clean Car Discount was introduced.

Figure 15.3: EV adoption mapped against the demonstration path 2020–2036

Figure 15.3: EV adoption mapped against the demonstration path 2020–2036

One of the things I have long found fascinating about the transport debate is that it’s not just about transport or reducing emissions but that there are many co-benefits to a more balanced transport system. Importantly the advice notes some of this in relation to the health benefits of these kinds of policies.

Decarbonising transport can realise significant health and wellbeing co-benefits at all levels of the ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve’ hierarchy.

  • Changes to urban form that reduce vehicle kilometres travelled will reduce harm and road deaths. Motor vehicle deaths are also one of the leading causes of premature mortality in Aotearoa New Zealand, especially for Māori.
  • Changes that improve walking, cycling, and public transport contribute to a healthier population.
  • Changes that replace fossil-fuelled vehicles with low carbon alternatives will significantly improve air quality.

While there are some challenges in quantifying these health co-benefits, the latest Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand study found that air pollution in New Zealand contributed to approximately 3,300 premature deaths per year and social costs of $15.6 billion per year, as illustrated in Figure 15.1. This is primarily attributed to ICE vehicles.

Figure 15.1: Social costs of health impacts from human-made air pollution

Source: Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand 2016 (HAPINZ 3.0): Findings and Implications

The report also contains a section on our Built Form and positively it highlights the strong links between urban form and transport in emission outcomes, such as that enabling our cities to be denser will also help them be more walkable and therefore help reduce emissions.

The way cities and towns are shaped impacts emissions across land use, transport, buildings, energy, and waste

Urban form refers to the physical characteristics that make up urban areas, including the shape, size, density, activities, and configuration of settlements. Making changes to how Aotearoa New Zealand approaches and shapes urban form can reduce emissions and strengthen climate change resilience. The rate of change will likely vary across different sized urban areas, influencing the pace and scale of emissions reductions that can be achieved.

Two of the main aspects that shape urban form are transport and development needs. Transport investments can drive urban development, and urban development can influence transport investments in response. What results is an urban form that can be classified as people-oriented (dense and well-connected) or car-dependent (low density and vehicle-dependent). Spatially planning urban developments in a way that helps reduce emissions can support meeting emissions budgets. The Spatial Planning Act provides a way for this alignment to be realised. Well-planned and designed urban spaces can also result in greater social equity, improved health outcomes, and lower energy consumption.


Transport investments such as road and highway improvements can also lead to higher emissions, both from development itself and the choices it incentivises people to make. The Government has announced multiple such transport projects that will increase emissions and make it more difficult to meet emissions budgets.

There’s much more in the report that’s well worth reading.

The government of course say they welcome the report but most of the recommendations, especially in relation to transport, are at complete odds with their stated policy, such as slashing funding for walking and cycling, building lots more big roads and scrapping the clean car discount.

Reducing emissions isn’t just good for the climate, the commission also estimate that it could create new jobs, businesses and save households about $2 billion a year by 2040. Who wouldn’t want that.

Further, a Newshub story about Shane Jones calling climate goals a ‘dreamy fairytale’ noted

That 2030 target is part of New Zealand’s trade agreement with the EU and if it’s not reached, there’s a $24 billion reparation bill.

Whether the government decides to listen to the advice or not, the climate will continue to deliver its advice to the new government.

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  1. That’s the thing,isn’t it, the climate has no respect for political rhetoric. Of course the argument, quite fairly,is that NZ will make little difference, in the overall outcome ,re global emissions.
    But,there is a whole new argument, that NZ must be seen to be doing it’s share,if only to offer our future generations, some hope for their future.
    To be in a position of influence,and decide that short term political expediency, should trump long term planning,that future generations will benefit from, is callous.
    Mental health is one of NZ,s growing problems,to leave our next generations, with a very constrained outlook,will only exacerbate this. Nature has been proven to a great healer,but cannot take much more further abuse.

    1. Sorry, Bryan. the “NZ will make little difference” argument doesn’t hold water. China as a country can make a difference, but can the province of Qinghai in China with a population just 20% higher than NZ. If we let ourselves off the hook will we let Qinghai of the hook too? What about the state of Wyoming it has a population of ~1/10 of NZ surely they’re off the hook. But no, Wyoming is the US’s biggest coal producing state. And so the argument goes. The Planet doesn’t care about humankind’s aggregations it just reacts to what we stuff into the atmosphere – that’s what we all need to stop! Wherever we are and whomever we aggregate with.

      1. Further to that analogy, if all the countries with emission levels the same or smaller than NZ did nothing, that would be about 25% of the world’s emissions – suddenly not just a drop in the ocean…

  2. There were some interesting points in the report, for me, the greater than expected uptake of EVs was a promising surprise (hopefully not derailed by the scrapping of the clean car discount).
    What was disappointing was that despite the report stating that ‘the previous governments cancelling the The Sustainable Biofuels Obligation was expected to deliver up to half of the total emissions reductions projected for transport’, there was no new recommendation for the Biofuel mandate to be back on the table.
    This is a disaster given the current report went on to say ‘the government’s decision to halt this increases its assessed shortfall by around 3.0 MtCO,e in the second emissions budget and 4.4 MtCO,e in the third emissions budget.’
    The only mention of biofuels was around aviation emissions and that was some wishful thinking that NZ could build a domestic refinery.
    Given SAF refineries cost around a billion dollars to build, it’s questionable if the aviation demand in NZ could ever sustain that spend when imported options are available.
    There are some very good things in the report, but missing the chance to slash our transport emissions reduction targets in half with a simple change to our fuel specifications is a huge miss.

    1. Will be interesting to see if there was a spike in EV registrations post-election. I rolled one of our cars a couple of years earlier than planned just take advantage of it before the Nats scrap it.

      I’d expect EV sales to be flat for most of next year while everyone figures out a new price equilibrium before picking up again in 2025/2026 when EV utes start to arrive. My money is once the Ford Ranger goes electric a lot of the resistance to EV’s will magically disappear.

      1. Yes there is bound to be a bump in numbers at the end. The interesting part is whether there is much of a long term change. That will depend on the price elasticity of demand. It might be that some of the bonus is being pocketed by car companies.
        We looked at buying an MG4 just before the bonus ends. Just the fact we can’t tell yet how well the MGs and BYDs resist rust is the only thing that stopped us. The alternative of a Kia or something like that is still just overpriced.

        1. I ended up with a 2nd Gen Leaf in the end as this is our second vehicle and serves as a commuter/round town hack. Looked at a lot of new cars but couldn’t justify the expense/depreciation on something that isn’t the family wagon.

          When I spoke to the dealer about what he thought would happen he reckoned people would forget in 6 to 12 months but did say a lot of the rebate was going back to Japan for secondhand stuff. Which kind of implies the ticket was being clipped everywhere.

          Did drive a MG4 though and liked it. Surely with a 7 year warranty rust isn’t your problem being the first owner as any required repairs are covered.

        2. My brother in law did but an MG4 so we will find out how robust it is. I have owned my current car 12 years and it lives outside. The only spot of rust is the repair the insurers did when Mrs mfwic swung her car into mine while backing. (AA Insurance fixed both). So rust resistance matters to me because my cars stick around a long time.
          The repealed the bonus so I will go on driving a 14 year old accord (as seen in the first picture here )

    2. “there was no new recommendation for the Biofuel mandate to be back on the table.”

      I have gone very cold on biofuels. To make a real dent in our demand, biofuels basically would (and in some parts of Europe for example already have) massive monocultures of the relevant crops.

      Sure, you may end up with short-term climate change benefits, but the ecological damage is far from irrelevant, plus it has implications on costs for food etc. Far from a “silver bullet”, even as a part of the mix.

      1. Not if they are made from waste and residues. Did you know that you can make Jet fuel from the waste cob of sweet corn? There is a huge amount of feedstock (including NZ tallow) that can be used for biofuels

  3. So basically all this is being ignored for at least the next 3 years, especialyl whilst this current government is doing its best to strip away the checks and balances we currently have on decision making.

    The only way NZ will start taking climate seriously is when we lose trade deals and companies don’t want our emission heavy dairy, by then it will be too late to catch up.

    1. Really? Plenty of people are buying cheap and crappy cars from a certain country that is notorious for using slave labour in their construction. Many drivers in NZ are too ignorant to know what a good car should drive like and just perceive price to be the main motivation.
      If the price or quality is right, people will buy the product.

    2. Hi Joe, I agree entirely that we face at best three years of inaction. At worst a reversal so instead of just bemoaning the Government’s inaction we should instead be doing what we can as individuals.
      My suggestions to you all is to visit, see what they are about and work out what you and your community can do to electrify all the machines in your life. We’re bought an EV, walk and ride when we can and next we’re going solar with SolarZero. What can you do?

      1. Yes we were fortunate enough to be able to add solar this year- before redundancy and reduced work hours came along! Our power bill last month was $40 and that included charging of the Leaf. I do wish though there was more support for others in a less fortunate situation than our whanau to do this.

  4. So we don’t need to listen to the Triumvirate?
    Winnie The Poo, David Seesmore Buts & Luxurious Christophus are really just hot air contributing to carbon monoxide poisoning???

    How wonderful that a qualified person is head of such an important Commission. It almost makes one question democracy, especially since it was invented by the Greeks, who were rather undemocratic by today’s progressive and scientifically educated and evolved!!!

    1. If I can add a relevant platitude: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

      I think one of the biggest issues with electorate democracy is is that it is bad at dealing with long-term issues. Witness 3 Waters. The political cost of trying a “think big” approach (whether or not it was the right one) was so substantial that instead we are back to “muddling through”.

      With climate change being the ultimate long-term issue (few direct benefits to dealing with it, especially in the 3-10 year timeframes important for politicians), I despair of the world sorting this. I think we will be doing bottom-of-the-cliff adaptation for the next century or so.

      1. Well if Labour hadn’t of tried to push through agendas that almost nobody asked for or wanted then 3 Waters would not only be in place now but they’d also likely still be in power.
        Thankfully sane heads prevailed and co-governance nonsense is no longer on the cards.

    2. We just experienced the best form of government there is. The transition government. Imagine if we could have Labour in power all the time but they were constitutionally forbidden from doing anything. That would be perfect. I say we should take longer to count the votes next time.

        1. Yes but the transition period made them shut up as well. For a few weeks they stopped annoying people and gave up on the sham of foreign policy.

      1. Do-nothing governments only serve people who are secure in the status quo; and yet, only in the medium term.

        If a government doesn’t show any indication of action for long enough, those people end up with their heads on pikes, which is a less-secure outcome for them.

        Placating the disaffected is the most important role of government. Without it, we’d be rolling through cycles of revolution and chaos.

        1. Bingo. “Look at how much we care” doesn’t really hold a candle to “look at how much we are actually doing for you”.

  5. in my 75yrs I have seen so many climate emergencies and there has always been a driving force behind them and always involves enormous amount of money going to some organization ,

    1. In the decade I was born (1960s), CO2 was increasing at an average of 0.9ppm. The last decade has seen average annual increases of around 2.4ppm . So a big problem and getting worse at an increasing rate.
      TBH, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are coming from a position of not enough easily understood information, rather than a position of misinformation.
      You will find the data series at the Global Monitoring Laboratory are useful for educating yourself on the future your mokopuna are inheriting.

  6. An excellent article. The only missing element seems to be this: there is in fact no viable future for our kids unless we accept the need for a serious cut in our overall energy usage along with our current flouting of other planetary boundaries.
    We want government to shift us all to a modern, carbon-neutral economy: until we elect politicians who are science-literate and who have ditched the pied-piper fantasy of endless GDP growth, we’re complicit in wrecking our kids’ future.
    If my own acquaintances are anything to go by, every time climate comes up in conversation you can sense the mental gears grinding as people hunt for a different topic of conversation – probably their next flying holiday or gas guzzling road trip. I’ve reluctantly pledged never to fly again. Unless Jesus or some similar dude drops by to save us, we’re gonna have to downsize a bit folks. Who’s up for that?

  7. Disappointed to see that graphic in the CCC report that showed a car producing the NOx when we know its is very nearly all from diesels. And how many diesels are are cars? Almost none. The icon for NOx should have been a truck or a ute (or a van?). And with particulates aren’t diesels worse than petrol vehicles? If so the icon for that should house a truck or a ute too.

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