Transport emissions crucial to NZ meeting climate targets

Reducing transport emissions is crucial to New Zealand meeting its climate targets and action will have an immediate and lasting impact.

New Zealand can cut almost all transport emissions by 2050. The technology already exists and is improving fast, He Pou a Rangi, the NZ Climate Change Commission, says.

“We need to change the way we build and plan our towns and cities and the way people and products move around,” commission chair Dr Rod Carr says.

“This includes making walking and cycling easier with good cycleways and footpaths. It means moving freight off the road and onto rail and shipping. It means reliable and affordable public and shared transport systems. And it means an electric or low emissions transport fleet.

“Most transport emissions are from fossil fuels used to power vehicles such as petrol and diesel used by cars, SUVs and trucks (91%), domestic flights (7%) and rail and coastal shipping (2%).”

The commission has advised government it should have an integrated national transport network to reduce travel by private car. There needs to be much more walking, cycling and use of public and shared transport.

Electric vehicles are key and need to be widely adopted. Dr Carr says they want to see the majority of the vehicles coming into New Zealand for everyday use to be electric by 2028. There will be many EVs doing lots of short journeys around town and still lots of internal combustion engine in the national fleet.

The government will need to provide support and incentives to make this happen.

Use of low carbon fuels, such as biofuels and hydrogen, needs to increase, particularly in heavy trucks, trains, planes and ships.

Other areas of concern include heating, industry and power. Aotearoa needs to decarbonise how it produces and uses energy. The country must move towards a set of diverse and low emission energy sources by 2050.

Dr Carr says Aotearoa needs to maximise the use of electricity. Building more renewable generation such as wind, solar and geothermal will be required.

“Reducing emissions from process heat is key. Other low emission energy sources, such as bioenergy, will be needed.

“Emissions must be reduced at pace while allowing the country to continue to grow. Planning ahead so that technologies, assets and infrastructure can be replaced with low emissions choices on as natural a cycle as possible will help business and industry keep pace with the transition.

“We need to almost eliminate fossil fuels. This means ending the use of coal for producing heat, where biofuels and electricity are feasible such as in heating the spaces we live and work in and in generating low and medium temperature heat for industry.

“By 2035 we will be using 30% of the coal we use today. The homes, buildings and infrastructure we build now will still be here in 2050. We need to think about our choices with climate change in mind. That means using low emissions technologies and prioritising energy efficiency.

“In the long-term, we will need to reduce how much natural gas we use in homes and businesses,” Dr Carr says.