Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Climate Change: The opposite of what is needed

Yesterday the National government announced its new draft Government Policy Statement on land transport 2024, which was of course all about roads. While the media is focusing on increases to car registration and fuel tax (both justified, and the latter should be done sooner IMHO), the real news is that they're paying for those roads (and their tax cuts for landlords) by ripping $1.5 billion out of public transport and half a billion out of walking and cycling. Oh, and banning Waka Kotahi from building footpaths. If that seems petty and stupid, well, those are the hallmarks of this government.

There are lots of ways this is stupid, but the big one for me is the climate. We are - optimistically - on the brink of a climate disaster. The government is meant to be doing something to help stop that, and its policy framework for doing so is the five-yearly process of budgets and emissions reduction plans under the Zero Carbon Act. They're currently meant to be finalising their second Emissions Reduction Plan, and in December 2023 He Pou a Rangi / Climate Change Commission provided them with advice on what should be in it. Here's what it recommended for transport:

  1. Simplify planning and and increase investment in integrated transport infrastructure and services that optimise public and active transport.
  2. Provide dedicated long-term funding for the construction of integrated cycle and rapid transport networks in major population centres.

Instead of doing that, the government is cutting both, to build more roads for utes.

The recommendations also included a handy graph about the emissions impact of various transport policies:


[Carbon reduction efficiency per dollar spent (USD). CC-BY 4.0 He Pou a Rangi / Climate Change Commission]

While the transport policy statement doesn't cost National's truck mega-motorways, they have previously costed tham at $24.8 billion. That's committing us to roughly 124 million tons of additional future emissions - just over 10% of our remaining emissions budget until 2050. This is the exact opposite of what is needed, and it seriously calls into doubt National's commitment to meeting its legislated emissions reduction obligations.