'Hard choices' need to be made to get transport to zero emissions, says minister

New Zealand will need to make "some hard choices" in reducing the transport sector's emissions in achieving net zero emissions, with  drastic changes proposed to meet emission targets. 

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Transport Minister Michael Wood launched the consultation document today. Source: 1 NEWS

By Logan Church and Anna Whyte

"It’s obvious we can't continue with business as usual," Transport Minister Michael Wood said today, as he launched consultation around potential transport policies to eliminate emissions.

That included one proposal in the consultation document to phase out the importation of light internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035.

The document, Hīkina te Kohupara - Transport Emissions: Pathways to Net Zero by 2050, proposes pathways and changes to get the sector to almost zero by 2050.

It suggests multiple pathways to reach a 2050 goal of net zero carbon emissions from transport, with options including designing cities to better support public transport (including bikes and scooters), increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road, building better infrastructure to support sustainable transport, road user charges, boosting rail and coastal freight, and electrification of trucks and buses.

It also includes implementing land-user changes, public transport improvements and parking, congestion and distance-based pricing. Another proposal is to phase out the importation of light internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035, ban the use of ICE vehicles by 2050, electrify the public transport bus fleet by 2035 and adopt biofuels in light vehicles. 

Another theme suggested was to save energy by way of optimising freight routes and logistical improvements, shift from road freight to rail and shipping and to use biofuels for road freight and accelerating uptake of electric medium trucks. 

Only one of the four proposed pathways meet the Climate Change Commission's draft recommendation of a 47 per cent reduction in transport emissions by 2035. The Transport Ministry said that would require, among other things, at least 758,000 electric vehicles to be on the roads by 2035, and 17,200 more buses.

The report does not provide any costs for proposed changes.

"Reducing emissions across the transport sector is an enormous undertaking, but it is achievable and will help support our economic recovery," Wood said. 

"The transport sector currently produces 47 per cent of New Zealand’s CO2 emissions and between 1990 and 2018, domestic transport emissions increased by 90 per cent.

"We’ve already taken steps to reduce emissions but Hīkina te Kohupara shows we have to go much further," Wood said. 

"While the pathways outlined in Hīkina te Kohupara are not Government policy, we want to have a national conversation about the changes we all need to make."

The document states 'not Government policy' in capital letters, written on each page. 

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said cutting emissions from transport is "vital" when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. 

"If we make smart decisions now then we can create a low carbon future for transport and put our communities on the path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050."