Achieving future targets for reducing transport emissions just released by the Climate Change Commission will need more focus on what New Zealand can do in the present, says the Automobile Association.
The AA say they recognise the important contribution transport needs to make to reduce emissions and supports the government’s long-term aim of minimising the environmental impact from how people move around.
“There are plenty of good initiatives that the AA supports in what has been proposed by the Climate Change Commission,” says AA policy and research manager Simon Douglas, “but we believe there are some key pieces of the puzzle that should be greater priorities.
“Having many more electric and low-emissions vehicles on our roads will obviously be a major part of reducing the country’s greenhouse gases, and introducing a feebate to incentivise people buying cleaner cars as well as setting emissions standards for vehicle imports will also help with this.
“But those actions are going to take time to make a noticeable impact, and from the AA’s knowledge of the car industry, we think it will be very unlikely that New Zealand will access or afford EVs in the numbers hoped for this decade.
“That means we also need to focus on what can be done to make the biggest difference with the cars in our current fleet, and the AA believes biofuels are a much more important part of the answer.”
Simon believes it is good that using biofuels is part of the plan that has been released, but claims the country should be aiming much higher than a five per cent target by 2035.
“New Zealand generally has about 300,000 vehicles enter our fleet every year, compared to about 4.6 million vehicles on our roads already, so there is huge potential to reduce emissions by greening the fuel current vehicles run on,” he says.
“Motorists are collectively paying at the pump more than $500 million a year into the government’s coffers right now as a price for emissions through the Emissions Trading Scheme.
“The AA has been calling for that money collected from motorists to offset their emissions to be dedicated to actions that do just that, and those funds need to be immediately committed to rapidly developing our own biofuel production plants at the scale necessary.”
The AA say they applaud the government for being ambitious in the plans to tackle climate change, but they also need to be realistic.
“Cars - either internal combustion engine, hybrid or electric powered - will remain the major method of transport for most New Zealanders for the foreseeable future,” adds Simon, “and the majority of people buy vehicles for less than $10,000.
“It will be many years before there are large-scale volumes of EVs available for New Zealanders to buy at affordable prices. A new EV is currently around twice the price of its equivalent petrol or diesel-fuelled alternative.
“We need to make sure that we don’t make changes that penalise ordinary New Zealanders who would like a lower-emissions vehicle but can’t afford one.
“The AA is concerned that rising prices for vehicles will result in people hanging onto older vehicles even longer than they currently do, and that wouldn’t be good for emissions or road safety.
“We need a balanced approach that ensures it doesn’t become unaffordable for people to upgrade their vehicles.”