Thursday, January 28, 2021

Doing the minimum

The Climate Change Commission is due to release its draft budgets and emissions reduction plans on Monday Sunday, which will hopefully put a rocket under the government to actually reduce emissions. So perhaps in an attempt to pre-empt this, they've re-announced their election policy of introducing a clean car standard, to gradually lower average vehicle fleet emissions:

The Government is promising to pass a law implementing its long-planned Clean Car Import Standard this year, as part of a suite of climate change measures.

It is also hinting that something like the “feebate” proposal could return, as it is considering some kind of incentive to get Kiwis into cleaner vehicles.


Vehicle suppliers will have different targets to meet, and will only have to ensure that the average efficiency of the cars imported in any given year meet the standard. This means higher emission vehicles will still be allowed to be imported, but will have to be offset by cleaner vehicles.

The average light vehicle in New Zealand currently has CO2 emissions of around 171g/km. It is aiming to get that down for new vehicles to 105g/km by 2025, a standard met by Japan in 2014 and Europe in 2020.

When Labour first announced this policy back in 2019 I called it timid and unambitious. That view hasn't changed. Yes, it will help, and its a good building block to a stronger solution. But planning to do what Japan did a decade ago (and Europe exceeded five years ago by the time the policy is announced) seems like foot-dragging. On the positive side, they're talking about reintroducing a biofuels mandate - a useful way to cut heavy vehicle emissions - and about feebates to encourage EV uptake, but talk doesn't reduce emissions. Transport is our second biggest source of emissions after agriculture, and there are obvious technological solutions to reduce them and policies to encourage their adoption. Given the scale of the challenge - our entire future is at stake - the government needs to be going all-in on this. What they've announced today just isn't enough. we have to start somewhere, but unless this is rapidly followed with stronger action, the government will be committing to failure. And that is something we should all find unacceptable.