Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Climate Change: Timid and unambitious

When the government introduced the Zero Carbon Bill, people rightly asked what they planned to do to reduce transport emissions, which basicly had no policy at all other than the ETS. Today, they responded, announcing a "feebate" system which would see buyers of dirty vehicles taxed to subsidise clean ones. Its an obvious policy, and one I've supported for a long time. At the same time, in the current crisis, it seems timid and unambitious. The ice-caps are melting, cities are running out of water, and the government is planning to apply a vehicle fuel efficiency standard Japan and Europe had five years ago in 2025? So much for our "nuclear-free moment"!

A feebate scheme is an important part of any policy to reduce transport emissions and encourage the necessary switchover to electric vehicles. But the government needs to do more than this, and it needs to do it faster. They should be pushing this through the legislative process as quickly as possible, and implementing it immediately, rather than with a 5-year phase-in. As the Cabinet paper points out, a dirty car imported today stays on our roads for 19 years on average. So the quicker we turn off that tap, the better. But more importantly, we need to turn it off permanently. Other countries have announced phase-out dates for fossil-fuel vehicles, typically aiming to ban new sales in 2030 (and non-museum-piece registrations 5-10 years after). Such a date sets market expectations and helps drive the push for people to make their next car electric. But there's no mention of one at all in the Cabinet paper - the necessary action seems like too much for the government to take. And it certainly makes it clear that, contrary to the Prime Minister's rhetoric, we're not seeking to lead on climate change, we're not even being a "fast follower". Instead, our government is dragging its feet, just like its always done.