Hīkina te Kohupara

Kia mauri ora ai te iwi Transport Emissions: Pathways to Net Zero by 2050


The Lightfoot Initiative are in support of the proposed solutions to create a low/zero carbon transport system in response to the climate emergency. We urge the current, and future, government to take decisive action to support the shifts required to reduce carbon emissions. We believe that a ‘whole system’ approach is required to ensure that the shifts are possible and achieve the intended outcomes.

Theme 1: Changing the way we travel

We agree that this shift is required. Significant improvement to how we use and develop urban spaces is required to ensure this shift can happen. This will require cross-sector and ministry support and will require changes to laws and policies around how developers create and adapt new spaces. We are hopeful that the Natural and Built Environment Act (NBA), Strategic Planning Act (SPA) and Climate Change Adaptation Act (CAA) will provide the impetus and direction needed for significant reform in how we use and develop urban spaces. We would like to see Aotearoa New Zealand lead the way in researching how built environments can be maximised for the most vulnerable members of society: women, children, the elderly and those with limited mobility to use and enjoy spaces that encourage and support active travel modes. 

We also recognise that attempting to shift New Zealander’s out of their cars and into more active modes of transport is likely to be complex and difficult. Managing transport demand will require significant investment as a reimagining of our cultural identity is required as car use is inherent to how we see ourselves as a nation. Solving this issue will require cross disciplinary and cross sector cooperation – particularly when coupled with the imminent threat of a climate crisis that some are still unwilling to admit is happening. We would like to see further development in this area at both local and national government levels to identify best practice models in supporting this shift. There also needs to be a recognition that different models need to be applied according to population density and local climate/contextual factors.

Embedded within Theme 1 is a requirement for people to want to stay within their own local areas. Currently there is massive disparity between the infrastructure, community facilities, quality of housing and amenities and access to successful/suitable schools in many communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. To change the way we travel, we need to address these inequities. Of the 826,000 school children in New Zealand, how many of them travel a significant distance by car to attend a particular school? Are these students also travelling to after school activities that could/should be provided on the school site? What role could state sponsored buses (similar to the school bus system) play in reducing our transport emissions? A multi-agency approach to changing the travel habits associated with school aged children needs to be considered to support your proposals. 

Theme 2: Improving our passenger vehicles

We agree that improvements need to be made to upgrade vehicles to reduce emissions. However, continual investment in light passenger vehicles must be carefully managed. We urge you to consider what New Zealand would look like if we all swapped our existing vehicles for more sustainable options. What is the end of service plan for petrol and diesel vehicles?

Research into sustainable biofuels needs careful consideration. We encourage you consider research by Susan Krumdiek (University of Canterbury / Heriot-Watt University) that proposes that hydrogen will not provide the solution we are hoping for. 

We fully support the intent to shift to a low carbon public transport fleet.

We reject that domestic aviation in the future is an important mode for inter-city and inter-regional travel. Currently, this is the only option, however redirecting current spending on motorways and highways towards the development of an electrified national rail network would provide a solution to reduce carbon emissions.

Theme 3: Supporting a more efficient freight system

We support the development of a National Supply Chain Strategy and understand the complexities of shifting freight in a geographically dispersed environment. However, we encourage you to consider how water and rail could be used to maximise our natural environment when aiming to reduce the carbon footprint of our freight transport.

Which Pathway?

We support Pathway 4. Young New Zealanders are inheriting a global climate crisis. Although we understand that “Pathway 4 would require significant investment in transport infrastructure and medium to high-density residential areas, as well as swift policy action in these areas” we believe this level of action is now crucial. This is a time for bold policy decisions. 

The report states on Page 121 “Most New Zealanders are concerned about climate change, and support emissions reductions. We assume that this sentiment will grow over time, as the impacts of climate change grow and become more obvious, and younger generations who have grown up with the threat of climate change become more influential in decision-making.” It is important to consider that what appears as radical and controversial now, in just a few years will be widely accepted as the status quo. 

The report also states “If the social mandate grows more quickly than expected, we could achieve a zero-carbon transport system swiftly. This could be reflected in both the personal actions that people take to reduce transport GHG emissions, and collective support and demand for institutional changes (e.g. policies, pricing, and incentives). Alternatively, emissions reductions could be hampered if there is insufficient will or mandate for changes.” (p121). As with any policy or action at a national level, swaying specific groups in society will be essential to ensure uptake and compliance. The golden age of the automobile represents a century of independence and perceived freedom, but we at The Lightfoot Initiative are left asking “at what cost?”. Transport has been a significant contributor to the climate crisis -we enjoyed it while we had the chance, and now that we’re aware of the detrimental impact of overuse, we need to welcome other options and modes. Similar to cultural and social beliefs about smoking, but on a much grander scale, we need to accept that the age of the automobile is almost over. We note that this will not be an easy, or quick fix, but we do urge you to take decisive action.