Q+A Panel: Culture shift needed to address long-term transport emissions in NZ

Just 0.6% of all vehicles on our roads are in some form electric, but the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice to the government says they should be the majority of vehicles arriving on our shores by 2035.

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Electric cars are often seen as the solution to the decarbonisation of our transport network but some say they cannot stand alone. Source: Q+A

Almost half our CO2 emissions come from the transport sector and the near 4.5 million vehicles on New Zealand's roads.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says only the most wide-ranging changes will hit the Commission’s targets.

“You have to electrify your vehicle fleet, you have to do massive mode shift, you have to really invest in public transport, you have to get freight off the roads and into the rail; it’s kind of do everything,” he said on Q+A during the show's Milk, Meat and Motorcars special.

“I don’t think that there’s kind of, one thing that you need to do more than another - you need to do everything if we’re gonna tackle transport emissions.”

National Iwi Chairs Forum spokesperson Mike Smith says our independent approach to transport needs to change.

“If we could get away from this notion of we’re all driving around individually here, there and everywhere so we’ve just got to have a culture shift, a bit of a mind shift,” he said.

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Nearly 4.5 million vehicles on NZ roads produce close to half of all our CO2 emissions. Source: Q+A

Wellington City Councillor Tamatha Paul – who on Thursday secured council support for millions of dollars in cycling infrastructure in the capital - echoed similar thoughts.

“As long as we have people with their own private cars and multiple per household, there is not enough space on the road for bus lanes and cycle lanes and footpaths,” she said.

Meanwhile, Climate Change Commission Chair Rod Carr was quick to assure he doesn’t want cars made obsolete before their time but says “we have to get on with the change now.”

“We need to give people those alternatives so that they’re choosing to get rid of their cars as opposed to waiting until they’re at the end of their lives,” Paul said.

Budget 2021 put aside $300m for incentivising “the uptake of low-emission vehicles” but Shaw remained tight-lipped when asked for what it would be used for specifically.

“I can tell you it’s yet to be revealed,” he said.

The Commission’s final recommendations are delivered to the Government on Monday and will be made public within two weeks.