Friday, December 04, 2020

Climate Change: Reducing transport emissions

The Herald this morning has a piece on how to halve Auckland's transport emissions within a decade. Its based on an interactive web tool by the 1.5 project, which lets you play around with all the variables and experiment with different combinations. The Herald highlights one of the surprises in there: improved cycling infrastructure saves more than all the big public transport projects combined, at a faction of the cost: 375 kt CO2-e for cycling vs 300 kt CO2-e for all those multi-billion dollar projects. That's not an either-or thing, and there are obvious synergies between cycling and public transport (most obviously: its a way to get to the train station or busway, increasing the catchment area). But it does highlight a blind spot in our policy which we should focus more attention on. E-bike imports are expected to overtake new cars in a couple of years, and that seems to be something we should both encourage and plan for.

(One of the other things which pops out is how little difference Labour's promise of electric buses makes. Yes, its good. Yes, every little bit helps. But its simply not a credible policy for the scale of the problem).

Tinkering around, you can make decent savings by modestly decreasing the number of trips or trip length, or increasing car occupancy. But the core message is the thing we already know: the big savings come from increasing vehicle fuel efficiency and switching to electric vehicles. The clean car standard - which basicly means adopting EU regulations a decade late - gets us most of the way there by itself. Ditto mass uptake of EVs. Combined, they allow an almost 70% cut, which is the sort of thing that's necessary if we continue to allow farmers to shirk their responsibility and continue to pollute. So the policy problem is how to drive that. It looks like the clean car standard will happen next year, now Winston's handbrake has been removed. But if we really want to drive change in this area and push people hard into cleaner vehicles, we need feebates as well.