13 Oct 2021

Emissions paper: Decisions needed, not consultation - motor trade boss

7:24 pm on 13 October 2021

Fewer cars on the roads, more EVs, mass rapid transport in the big cities and congestion charges - an extensive consultation document aimed at reducing the country's carbon emissions has some very familiar ideas behind it, say industry representatives..

Electric vehicle shopping.

The transition to a carbon-neutral New Zealand has hit speed bumps, with work underway to overcome problems. Photo: RNZ

Today the Climate Change Minister James Shaw revealed an extensive consultation document aimed at reducing the country's carbon emissions in line with its obligations to get to net zero by 2050.

It is all work underway before the much-anticipated Emissions Reduction Plan due in May next year.

But the clock is ticking for the government, with modelling showing if nothing changes the country will produce 7.7 million tonnes more carbon than it wanted to over the next four years.

The transport sector will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting to get New Zealand over the line, with the document asking for feedback on a proposal to reduce the distances travelled by light vehicles by 20 percent and increase the number of electric vehicles to make up 30 pct of the overall fleet by 2035.

In the same period it has also put forward a proposal to reduce freight transport emissions by 25 percent and the emissions intensity of transport fuel by 15 percent.

The list goes on with proposals around better city planning to encourage walking and cycling, public transport, improving access to schools and e-bikes, enabling congestion pricing, a vehicle scrappage system to help get rid of the old fleet, a biofuels mandate and making sure regulation is in place to stop Aotearoa from becoming a dumping ground for other countries' high-emitting vehicles.

Transport is the country's second largest source of emissions, producing 43 percent of total emissions. The document showed it was on track to meet its short-term emissions targets, but was not well set up for the long term.

Greater Auckland director Matt Lowrie said it would be the big cities pulling up their socks to make the change.

"It is gonna be much harder to get rural kilometres down [because] there is longer distances to travel and so that means the bulk of the reduction from people travelling or changing how they travel will need to come from our cities.

"And that means getting people on their bikes, getting people on public transport, and getting people not travelling at all, in some cases, living closer to where, to where their jobs and other amenities are."

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw launches a discussion document on the emissions reduction plan.

Climate Minister James Shaw Photo: Pool / Stuff / Robert Kitchin

He said changing the way people travelled would not just create benefits related to carbon emissions.

"A 20 percent reduction in travel [overall] means probably a 40-to-60 percent reduction in travel in many of our cities so that's a lot less people on our roads, which means that freight travels around easier... and fewer crashes that occur as well."

The sustainable biofuels mandate would mean suppliers reduce emissions of the transport fuels they supply by a set percentage each year.

Gull general manager Dave Bodger said they had been receiving a subsidy to produce a 98 octane biofuel for years, but ultimately refined oil was cheaper.

"Rightly or wrongly, there's no cheaper energy in the world than a cup of hydrocarbon that started as crude oil. It is the cheapest way for people to have mobility.

"So people have got to pay more for a change in how we move about and we need to, don't get me wrong, but it's more expensive and nobody wants to pay more."

He said the mandate would force the market and consumers to get in behind biofuels, which alongside the other changes would help reach the government's goal of reducing transport emissions by 41 percent by 2035.

Motor Trade Association chief executive Craig Pomare was onboard with the biofuels mandate and also said the proposal for a vehicle scrap scheme, because it was something that previous consultations had not raised.

"Nothing in the Climate Change Commission report actually looked at the existing fleet, it was all about the new stuff coming in... and scrappage is one part of that jigsaw puzzle.

"We've been promoting a sum of around $2000. Because $2000 makes a real difference to people thinking about should I trade in my car? Is it enough to make me want to change to something better?"

However, what he really wanted was some hard decisions.

"In the last year we've made submissions to the Climate Change Commission, biofuels mandate, the Ministry of Transport future pathways and here is yet another consultation document.

"We've said it's about time that the rubber actually hit the road and we got some real detail so that we can prepare the industry for these changes, rather than sitting and waiting for more consultation."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs