7 Oct 2020

Labour aims to decarbonise New Zealand's bus fleets

4:26 pm on 7 October 2020

Labour says it will require councils to purchase only zero emissions buses by 2025 in a bid to decarbonise the public transport bus fleet a decade later.

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An electric bus in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

In climate change policy released today, the party says it would support regional councils and bus companies by contributing $50 million over four years for buses powered by electricity, hydrogen or "other power sources that reduce greenhouse gas emissions".

Other transport initiatives from Labour to reduce emissions include introducing a vehicle fuel efficiency standard for new and used light vehicles entering the fleet and extending the current road user charge exemption for heavy electric vehicles after 2025.

Road transport emissions make up 19.1 percent of gross greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand, and road fuel use is one of the five major contributors to our emissions increases.

Transport choices have also been the biggest factor in households' contribution to New Zealand's total carbon footprint.

Labour has also pledged to phase out fossil fuels in process heat (heat used in industrial processing, manufacturing and space heating) by banning installation of new low and medium temperature coal-fired boilers and replacing them with electric alternatives.

It would also support agricultural climate change research programmes by increasing funding by $6m a year.

A second term in government for Labour would see a focus on "practical steps" and build on work it has already done, such as the Zero Carbon Act, He Waka Eke Noa - an agreement with farmers to reduce agricultural emissions - and the establishment of the Climate Commission and the Green Investment Fund, Ardern says.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says "I have said that climate change is my generation's nuclear free moment and the work we have done - and plan to continue - demonstrates Labour's commitment to that".

She says she would have no hesitation in declaring a climate emergency when Parliament reconvenes, but what is actually needed is ongoing action for all of New Zealand.

"The clean car standard will make an enormous difference. It means that we'll stop importing vehicles that actually cost New Zealand drivers, and it'll meant that we'll be in line with many other OECD nations in bringing in other fuel efficient vehicles."

Asked if the feebate policy proposed by the Greens' transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter was gone, she said it was not part of Labour's policy.

"Our view is that the clean car standard was where we should be investing our energy."

"If we want to see more people taking up electric vehicles we have to build the infrastructure for it. We also have to see that price point come down. We're committed to making sure that people have choices - that means making sure that public transport is more widely available, that we're building EV infrastructure."

"During our first term in government, climate change was at the centre of all our policy work and commitments. It is inextricably linked to our decisions on issues like housing, agriculture, waste, energy and transport.

"We firmly believe that to have a real impact on climate change, we must build consensus so the changes stick, and the work must be integral to the range of major policy decisions governments make."

Labour's climate change spokesperson Megan Woods says the Covid-19 recovery means tackling climate change is an opportunity "not just to help save our country and our planet but also to create jobs".

Greens respond

Green party co-leader James Shaw says the announcement is "a good extension of the partnership we have had over the course of the last three years and provides a good foundation to work with them, to a bit further than we did in the next term".

It's a move in the right direction, but the Greens would go further, he says.

"We know that things are now getting increasingly urgent and we are running out of time and I would say that we really need to pull out all the stops at this point."

"I think that it's likely that the bus fleets will be zero emissions by 2035 even without central government action but we could be doing a lot more to help councils move faster than that ."

As for the extra funding for agriculture, he says that needs to continue - but that we also need to roll out the knowledge already gained in previous research.

He says the policy shows the influence the Green Party has had on Labour, but for meaningful change, people should vote Green to ensure a coalition government is formed.

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