This is a guest post from Robert McLachlan

Global warming is accelerating; 2023 was off the charts. We need to stop burning fossil fuels.

In New Zealand, transport accounts for half of all fossil fuels burnt. In the Emissions Reduction Plan, transport emissions fall 41% by 2035. As the Ministry of Transport says, “Achieving this will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and give us a more sustainable, inclusive, safe and accessible transport system that better supports economic activity and community life.” There is plenty of detail in the plan:

Some parts have been scrapped (biofuels, scrappage, social leasing, and the Clean Car Discount), some are or have been very successful (support for walking, cycling, and public transport, and the Clean Car Discount). Some are making headway but are intrinsically slow-burning (well-planned urban areas). But overall, the plan is working.

The plan is not rocket science and should not be at all controversial. All transport climate plans include the basic elements of fuel standards, mode shift, public transport planning. The debate is over the mixture of fees, incentives, regulations, and bans, not over the direction of travel.

The Draft Government Policy Statement on land transport would wreck this plan. Spending on walking, cycling, and public transport would reduce and become highly constrained. Spending on rail infrastructure would reduce drastically, which could render the national rail network non-viable. That in turn wrecks the New Zealand Rail Plan, intended to increase the proportion of heavy freight carried by rail by building high-tech truck/rail freight hubs and new rail ferries.

Dropping climate from the GPS drops it from NZTA, currently the lead agency charged with delivering emissions reductions from transport. What could replace it? The government is committed to meeting the emissions budgets, but have not yet released much detail about how they plan to do that, other than that the ETS will be the main tool.

But it is well known that carbon charges are not an effective way to reduce transport emissions. At current prices the ETS adds 15 cents per litre to the price of petrol, or $15/1000 km. The RUC rate for light vehicles (which now, in a world first, include EVs) is $76/1000 km. The carbon price would have to increase by a factor of five just to match that, which is unthinkable – it would destroy all other exposed sectors.

This issue has been covered extremely thoroughly in the international literature. In 2022, I co-authored a review with David Hall (then at AUT), which we called “Why emissions pricing can’t do it alone”. The Climate Change Commission identified ten types of barriers to a low-emission transition; tellingly, transport is the only sector for which they have proposed specific fixes for all ten barriers. Nearly all of them are under attack.

So it is really stretching belief to think that the ETS can be our main climate tool. Details are lacking – Minister of Climate Change Simon Watts will only say that work on the second Emissions Reduction Plan (2026-2030) is under way. Analyst Christina Hood has repeatedly detailed how the ETS will struggle to deliver even under present conditions.

The activist group Climate Liberation Aotearoa have taken the standard transport planning framework of Avoid/Shift/Improve and turned it into their slogan:

All four of these – which, remember, are not at all controversial and are such standard parts of transport emissions plans around the world that I can’t find any opposing voices in the literature – are now threatened in an act of climate denial. The attack on EVs is perhaps the most surprising, but the combined intention behind four initiatives (cancelling the Clean Car Discount, introducing RUCs for EVs, reviewing the Clean Car Standard, and transferring all fuel taxes to RUCs) is unmistakable.

Emissions reductions first entered the GPS in 2015, under John Key. It was raised to a strategic priority in 2018 and 2021, but now it is proposed to be dropped. Presumably, all work streams in NZTA related to emissions reduction will be stopped and all work teams dissolved. (That’s one way to meet your staff budget.) So, despite all the other alarming and potentially disastrous parts of the Draft GPS, this one is the worst.

Submissions on the Draft GPS close at 12pm (noon) on Tuesday 2 April. Please see the submission guide prepared by Transport For All, an alliance of seven transport/climate groups.

A note from Greater Auckland: for more info on having your say on the GPS, please also see yesterday’s post – which includes submission guides for the Auckland Long Term Plan as well.

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  1. I don’t even have a car at all these days, but think the EV rate of $76/1000km looks punitively high. My girlfriend’s petrol Toyota probably costs little more to drive the same distance.

    1. It would be interesting to see some real world calcs of costs of EVs with the new RUC vs petrol with fuel tax. As long as the EV costs are not higher than petrol then there can’t be any complaint from owners. Of course removing the subsidies they have enjoyed will slow the uptake of EVs which is not a good thing.

      1. You guys do realise EVs are now cheaper than they have ever been with subsidies?

        Dealer simply ramped up the price. Eco 101 here.

        Possibly more people bought them because they “felt” they were gettinng a better deal, when they weren’y.

        1. I see this claim a lot, but never any detailed evidence. It’s not true for Tesla – the Model 3 was cut from $74,900 before the CCD to $66,900 after, then to $65,900 in April 2023 and $62,500 in July. Now back to $65,900. Some brands have cut prices this year to clear old stock. The RUC will have an impact, how much may not be clear for a while.

        2. It might be related to the large Chinese manufacturers introducing new cheaper electric cars to the NZ market. But that has nothing to do with domestic policy.

        3. As a counter example.

          Enayaq Sportline december the Quote i received 80K +ORC
          same care now, 68k+ORC.

          Some brands like Tesla tended to not inflate their price by quite as much. However, this could’ve been easily checked by checking overseas market pricing which brands were inflating.

        4. But how much was the Skoda before the CCD?

          That the prices have dropped recently, during a world wide glut of EVs, does not on it’s own prove that removing the CCD caused the price drop.

        5. Don’t think that is true at all. I priced a range of cars at tyhe end of last year. Prices are after the $7015 rebate and now. MG4 $39975 now $44990, MG zs $44975 now $47990, BYD Dolphin $42975 now $49990, BYD Atto3 $47975 now $56990, Kia Niro $61975 now $65990, Hyundai Kona II $55975 now $77990.

        6. I think it is a mix of more competition, clearing stock and . Some of the cars being sold with the CCD were spec’d lower to meet the magic 80k. There will still be stock of these to clear as I assume cars are odered a fair way in advance from the factories. I was told when looking at a new car late last year that Skoda NZ were making a loss on each car sold. It will be interesting to see the sales numbers for the higher spec (normal) versions vs the NZ specials.

    2. Petrol (91) has 70c/litre of FED. Assuming average economy of 8 litres/100km that’s $56 per 1000km. Less for more economic cars. I thought that the RUC for E-vehicles had been lowered to somewhere around this amount

        1. All this worrying about the new RUCs for EVs/hybrids forgets the minor detail that the overall running costs for petrol vehicles are still higher. You’re typically paying at least $2.50 – $3.00/litre of petrol, whereas the charging cost for an electric vehicle might only be the equivalent of 30-40c/litre. So even RUCs on top of that is still going to be cheaper.

        2. Glen – 100% agree. As my comment above need to compare overall costs. RUC make sense for EVs. The rate for plug in hybrids is debatable as depends on how each person uses the car. But in the end the power cost/km is less that the petrol cost/km.

      1. The distortion blows out for smaller cars and petrol hybrids.

        I get 5l per 100 km in a non hybrid car, you can fairly reasonably get high 3 / 4l per 100km in something like an aqua.

  2. Have put in a detailed and scathing submission against this nonsense. I am not expecting a lot, but we can only be hopeful there will at least be some incremental change to limit the damage.

  3. As a person who relies on public transport to pick up my kids, and walks with them, aged seven and four; this GPS is particularly frightening. As a forty something year old man I do not feel safe near cars; I can only imagine how terrifying it is for my children.
    We do not need cars in our cities, public transport networks are not perfect, but they are better than they were twenty years ago.

    Unfortunately the “kick the can down the road” generation is still running the country (and many of my generation have been duped by neo liberalism); and it is difficult to find real hope in the “future”. If we have been destroying ourselves for so long; what hope is their for humans to be better?

    1. The best hope at the moment is that this National/Act government will only last one term. NZ voters were far too hasty in turning against Labour at the last election.

      1. Well maybe they should have thought about what the majority of the population actually wanted rather than trying to force woke, ill thought out and undemocratic policies on the nation while wasting so much political capital and good will in the process.
        People won’t forget that in a hurry.
        Labour absolutely squandered an unprecedented opportunity.

        1. Labour were awful but also keen to know these ‘woke’ aka ‘stuff I don’t like’ policies and how they were undemocratic?

        2. If only they’d implemented the policies that I prefer and not the ones I don’t like! they would have won for sure.

  4. The timeline on the “climate change” graph should really show the gullible lefties on this site, how they are being lead by the nose to continue with the climate change alarmism that they have been indoctrinated with.
    Nothing in nature is constant, so why should climate be different? Taking a snapshot of climate since 1960 is like using the last 1 second of your life as a predictor of what is to come. The neoMarxists who fly around the world in their private jets rely on the ignorance and lack of tertiary scientific training of the masses, to agitate for fundamental change of our society through supply of misinformation and distortion, to those who have been educated by a system that has taught them what to think, not how to think.
    The world went through a mini ice age between the 14 th and 19th century. The climate is recovering back to a more normal long term average which is warmer than the present. Given that climate records only exist for the last 200 years or less, it is reasonable to expect that temperature will move in one direction.
    Geological and historical records for the last 9000 years show huge variation in global temperatures without the influence of dreaded fossil fuelled vehicles. The time scale in which these have occurred reflect energy quantum’s outside the realms of anything man could create.
    The GPS is the first piece of pragmatic realism that this country has seen since the economic sabotage by the Red Queen and her mad Marxist followers of the last 6years. We both need to get the country moving again and let Kiwis get out and about to enjoy this country. The ploy to take away peoples independent transport and shove them into chicken coop apartments is just part of the command and control ethos of the Left.
    If the leftists on his site could open their minds (nor easy if you have been indoctrinated into the thinking of Marx) and do their own research, they may be able to draw some objective conclusions instead of running around doing the work of Lenin’s “useful idiots”.
    You will never see any quantified resulting change to the world, if NZ was to reverse its western society and go back to pre-Industrial Revolution times by eliminating fossil fuels. You would lose your car, house and job, but the neoMarxist elites would still fly their jets wherever and whenever they wanted.
    Wake up Lefties because you lot will not be the animals that “are more equal than others”.

      1. Above what? The temperatures recorded by the first ever thermometers, invented in the middle of a significantly cooler period?
        Wake up

      1. Non-drivers don’t exist, of course.

        But in all seriousness, don’t feed the trolls. There’s nothing to be gained from engaging with ad hominem diatribes about “Lefties” or the “Red Queen”, comparing any piece of NZ policy in history to “Marxism”.

        1. Yes, you seem like a good foot soldier of Marx. You wouldn’t dare to have your own opinions based on your own knowledge and research.

    1. ChrisB, I am happy to embrace this post – wokism era where you can be as disdainful and condescending as you want. I’ll start with you. What does “get the country moving again” mean apart from being some jingoism. Do you want NZ to produce more meat that it can’t sell? Or more dairy that is screwing our waterways and even potable water? Do you want to create jobs when we haven’t people to take them. Or bring in migrants that pay to obtain their visas? (I am involved with about 17 at the moment.) Where are these chicken coop apartments that you talk of? And no one is compelled to live there. What’s stopping people from seeing the country, accept perhaps that they cannot afford it? Get a grip man. More and stronger adverse weather events are making us poorer; massive investment in roads will do the same; as will more frequent droughts; and coastal inundation. The science says the rate of climate degradation is increasing. Move on, post on Liz Gunn’s site where you can engage in a conversation at a level that you can comprehend.

      1. The ignorance of the leftist always amazes. Most of the leftists on this site have been indoctrinated into Marx’s thinking, but few would have read what this evil guy actually wrote.
        Open, random migration was one of his core theories toward bringing down democracy and western society. The numpties on this site say that Marxism has never been part of our economy;;they must be naive, blind or ignorant as our Red Queen was and is, a world leader in an organisation set up by Lenin himself to further the goals of Marx.
        I agree that continuing to produce commodities as a price taker is stupidity. Both sides of politics in NZ have failed for many decades to provide any strategic analysis and vision for the future of this country. Countries of a similar size like Finland (with fewer resources than us) have done this several generations ago and are now well ahead of us in every measure of success.
        We need leadership to stand up against the idiot climate alarmists and sort out how to recover our economy from the ruinous 6 years of Marxism. Firstly we need to free up transportation routes but also to work out where we need to develop value adding industries and how many of the right people we need in those locations.
        If you had ever studied Hydrology you would know about the awesome and scary extremes of weather that can be predicted, with Civil Engineering measures taken to withstand or mitigate them. Again our leadership has failed to oversee that professional and competent analysis had been carried out before the development of flood plains and building on dodgy geological sites.
        This country is at far higher peril from earthquakes and consequential tsunamis than “man made climate change”. It is known that in the time of Maori settlement in this country (a milli second of geological time) several gigantic tsunamis have wiped out much of the Maori populations around the coast.
        We need to earn every cent we can muster to grow our economy and fortify ourselves against future catastrophic earthquakes that are going to happen with a certainty of 100%. The sideshows of the left like expensive cycleways, banning cheap energy from fossil fuels, deliberate slowing down of transportation, racial discord and other tools from Marx’s evil playbook need to be abandoned.

    2. I thought the Right was all about meeting challenges with innovation, ingenuity and clear eyes.

      The challenge is to find a path from destructive fossil affluence to renewable, sustainable prosperity.

      Our little islands can’t change the world on their own, but they can beat a path for the rest to follow.

      1. Fossil fuels are a finite resource and therefore mankind needs to develop technologies that will replace them; these need to provide the same or greater total quantum of energy than the world currently uses and be available at the point of usage. As such technology does not exist yet, we face the alternatives of going along with the Marxist climate alarmists and becoming a pre Industrial Revolution society (which was part of Karl Marx’s evil theology) or taking a pragmatic approach and making a transition as technology develops.
        At this point NZ is nearly broke and going down some route of “carbon zero” to impress the rest of the world is just delusional. The rest of the world will get on with looking after themselves and consider us to be an irrelevance.

        1. First part of your comment:

          Fossil fuels are finite and must be replaced

          Second part of your comment:

          Replacing fossil fuels is delusional virtue signalling

          Isn’t consistency part of conservatism any more?

        2. If NZ is “nearly broke”, this is because the previous government diverted a huge amount of funding into economic rescue initiatives during the ravages of Covid. If the “rabid Right” (contradistinction to the similarly pejorative term, “looney Left”) had been so against this, why did corporate businesses that didn’t need rescue-aid, nonetheless claim it and not pay it back when challenged? The “rest of the world” also suffered economically during this time, with New Zealand emerging in better shape than many countries, and NZ is far from alone in recognising the need for decarbonisation.
          The insistence of some, that people with “rightist” views are somehow automatically good while “leftists” are automatically bad, is as blinkered as the extreme Marxist credo they like to rail against. It demonstrates a scarily simplistic understanding of the multi-faceted diversity of humanity. Authoress Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was such a polarised individual, understandably perhaps through having experienced the deprivations of Soviet rule during her younger years. ChrisB looks to be another, though presumably without such an excuse for his misguided view.

        3. New Zealand is not nearly broke. Given we have a fiat currency, we can’t go broke, so long as we spend New Zealand dollars. Other things can happen, but even reasonably dim-witted politicians could avoid those things given they had a clue about how economics works. Lefties should reject this argument as righties do. They understand, that there is never a bad time to give tax breaks to the wealthy, as we are about to, in the middle of a recession.

    3. Chrisb I am going to set up a LLM to replicate your posts, please don’t worry about making any more on this blog. Here is a sample:

      “the woke leftists are brainwashing young people into being marxists who want to marry their bikes. climate change is a hoax made up by the CCP to lower productivity in the west. Let’s get nz back on track, but not literal tracks because trains are ideological warfare by the socialists”

  5. Hey Greater Auckland commenters – lift your game. You can do better than what i read above. Our cracker govt delivers a “safety 3rd” policy statement and shitcans climate action entirely, and you are debating road user charge levels.? Maybe im in the wrong forum, it all seems a little self interested.

    Our road kill costs us $10B a year – if we had Victoria’s DSI/km we’d be $5B/yr better off – and we’d stil be around to debate the EV RUC’s – not smeared on a pavement somewhere.

    I’ve never read a government policy statement that includes the terms like “blanket speed limits”. Even the language is infantile. Specifically excluding safety treatments is a kind of angry granny state – and defintaly politicians schooling our roading engineers.

    If you are looking for more reasons to submit – or even confirmation that submitting is pointless – The following excellent analysis by Auckland Council is spot on. I like the bit where it points out any safety analysis or comparison in the new GPS is impossible as it doesnt include any proposed safety actions
    Viva la Revolucion

  6. Not controversial? I appreciate the comedy!

    The notion of authorities controlling how people travel and how far they travel are incredibly controversial. 10 or 15 minute cities, permits to leave your own part of the city – you don’t have to look far to come across extremely controversial proposals that are a natural extension of the principles put forward.

    The ETS can and will bring down emissions and will do so in a more socially and economically efficient than the government picking and choosing winners and losers with the effect of bringing down emissions.

    1. Authorities have been controlling how we travel for years. They’ve designed roads and intersections to make it as easy for people to drive through neighbourhoods and as hard for people to walk to the dairy as possible.

      They’ve also made sure there is no option to catch a train when travelling between cities.

      The best comedy is that you think the ETS will have a material impact on emissions.

    2. TRM, have you seen the recent NZ carbon price? It has been in a recent downward spiral. The same for Europe. The govt struggled to sell carbon units at the last auction. There is a perception that the large polluters have as many units as they need. That, and the fact that they are gifted units means they won’t be rushing to reduce carbon anytime soon.
      The offshore aviation industry doesn’t pay for emissions.
      Our biggest polluter does not pay anything.
      I would be interested (mildly) to hear some evidence that what you say is even remotely true.
      Just because David Seymour says it does not make it true, remember he has changed his mind at least once.

  7. One of the things the Ministry of Transports beefing to incoming ministers shows is in effect we overachieved in Emissions Reduction Period 1 and that there is some headroom here. So I think any cogent rebuttal of the GPS needs to address that issue. And the point is that to get to the high emissions reductions needed in ERP3, we need to lay the appropriate groundwork for that to happen. In almost every measure the GPS fails to do that.

  8. In theory the ETS could work, but sadly in practice it doesn’t. Firstly the cost of carbon is woefully undervalued and secondly, successive Governments give free allocation to the worst polluters.
    For an ETS to really work, first the carbon needs to be priced correctly. Today I would say that is around USD $600/tonne of CO2. Secondly, the system has to be simplified that if you generate CO2, you pay. If you remove CO2, you collect. That would mean that companies like Pacific Steel, Air New Zealand etc and all fuel importers should have to buy tickets, while the forestry industry would generate tickets and be able to sell them.
    As this is not likely to happen, we need to address where our emissions are generated. Frankly when it comes to Farming, I’d just carve that out of the scope as NZ relies heavily on agricultural exports and the world needs our protein. There are ways to reduce methane emissions and we should just concentrate on that.
    When it comes to transport, the light vehicle fleet is transitioning to EV and within 20 years ICE engines for cars will become somewhat of a rarity. They will be able to run on synthetic fuel made from P2L pathways. The heavy fleet and aviation will run on synthetic fuels from a mix of pathways. Biofuel, from HEFA and ETJ as well as P2L.
    Getting through the next few years and meeting our CO2 targets will require the Govt to introduce mandates that require GHG reductions in fuels. This is how it works in Europe and its the best way forward for NZ. The gap between the more expensive to produce biofuels and E Fuels will be less noticeable once carbon is priced realistically in the fossil fuels.
    It is a great shame the last Government put a hold on what was a disappointingly modest bio mandate. NZ was worried about introducing a 1.5% mandate when most of Europe is at least 10%, the Dutch at 20% and Sweden was 30%. Sadly the people at MBIE put the end to this by whispering into the ears of politicians the word ‘inflation’….. idiots 🙁

  9. So we just carve out the sector that produces 50% of our emissions that we need to eliminate by 2050?
    I think that you have relied on assumptions that the farming industry is hoodwinking us into accepting. The world does indeed need protein. They don’t need it from animals. Those animals are what are destroying our water quality (waterways and drinking water), placing a huge requirement for water, requiring huge land resources, and polluting our air.
    Yes there are ways of reducing methane. Commercially they are available, but they have a cost. Will our farming industry embrace them? Only if they are forced to. They hate red tape (and it would be no less acceptable if it was blue or pink.) What they really mean is that they hate anything that adds cost, and seaweed feed does just that.
    And our export revenue? We wouldn’t need so much if we reduced our dependence on cars and oil; and fast fashion; fully electrified the grid; and had a more circular economy.
    There is scope for diversification. The massive almond industry in California is in trouble due to lack of water. Australia has seized on this opportunity.
    The plant based industry is growing. Most people struggle to differentiate between an “impossible” burger and others.
    On one point I certainly agree with you. Some of our thinking seems to be done by idiots. If we think that we can do things as we always have with just minor tweaks we are delusional. As an example, where is the land mass and resources to produce 100% of the SAF for planes? And already some have called for governments to help fund it. Although tax payer funded holidays will have enormous appeal.

    1. No land mass is being used to produce SAF for planes. That is just rubbish!
      Airlines are only buying SAF made from waste and residue. Yes, a lot of it is from used cooking oil, but the Chinese are going to eat Hot Pot and fried noodles regardless of the aviation industry. McDonalds were frying chips long before anyone thought of SAF.
      Your stuck in old thinking, SAF is not made from palm oil, however, next time you eat a Mars bar, wash your hair, or apply lippy, you are using palm oil products that are.
      There are other ways to make SAF as well, PTL uses carbon capture and green hydrogen. This pathway actually removes CO2 from the atmosphere, with the only waste from the production process being Oxygen. E2J is another pathway to make SAF. 2nd Generation ethanol uses the cellulose from waste (corn cobs, sugar cane waste, eventually used cardboard) as feedstock and then that is converted into SAF.
      And another pathway is gasification. Here you can take solid municipal waste and turn it into SAF.
      And your problem is?

      1. Because of the laws of thermodynamics you need more energy to create the fuel than it returns by moving your plane from a to b. Therefore, until our electricity generation is 100% renewable with enough surplus to power this, it is not CO2 neutral.
        Reducing could be way easier if we had the policies and education to support a more sustainable lifestyle.

      2. I am not stuck in old thinking. SAF or bio fuels have to come from something and if it was easy, and cheap then it would be done already. Brasil with its huge sugar cane industry (massive land use) only produces 25% of the world’s ethanol use.
        Read the following about the scale of investment needed

        And re-cycled Chinese cooking oil? You would be lucky to fuel half of the flights from Beijing to Wuhan at Saturday lunchtime.

        “No land mass is (currently) being used to produce SAF for planes.” Yep, probably factually correct, because only a miniscule amount of flights use any SAF. But when it becomes 5% of all fuel useage?

        Note that Air NZ only has a target of 20% SAF use by 2030. On current progress you’d be a brave woman to say that will be achieved.

        1. You, like many people, do not understand how CO2 works or what Net Zero is.
          While it is true that used cooking oil (the current most popular feedstock for SAF) is a finite resource (we will not open up a new McDonald’s if we need additional fuel), you are ignoring other alternative feedstocks and pathways.
          Just using HEFA technology there is more waste feedstock that can be tapped into. The bottle neck is refinery capacity, which demand will logically solve.
          The E2J feedstock is massive. If you think of how much cellulosic waste is produced every year, then you can imagine how much more SAF can be produced.
          Gasification can turn the mountains of solid municipal waste into SAF and if you hadn’t noticed, there is a lot of municipal waste.
          Then finally you have PTL (Power to liquid). You take free energy from solar, thermal, wind or hydro and you create electricity. This is used to split water into hydrogen (with a valuable by product of Oxygen). You then attach the green hydrogen to captured CO2 emissions from DAC or from filters on industrial chimneys. Then you can make a long chain hydrocarbon that is a synthetic fuel, including SAF.
          Net Zero doesn’t mean that we stop burning fuels. It is a ridiculous notion to expect us to stop flying, driving, heating etc. Net Zero means that we are balanced on CO2 emissions. It does not mean Zero emissions at all and It also doesn’t mean that every activity has to have the same CO2 accountability. If hard to abate sectors are positive emissions, then you balance that by reducing emissions further in other sectors. Carbon capture is a negative emissions solution.
          The aviation industry has a target of 10% GHG reductions by 2030. This will be achieved through the increased use of SAF, more efficient flight control, newer aircraft and emissions savings in the ground fleet. This is entirely possible based on existing technology and supply chain availability. Air NZ could switch to 20% SAF tomorrow if their customers would accept the fare increase.

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