The end of petrol driven cars
The Government has set us a strong challenge, for our country to become carbon neutral by 2050.
The rationale is simple. Increasing levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are cooking the planet. And we are beyond the theory stage. We are now seeing in real time the effects as predicted by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists. Whether it is the South Pole melting, Pacific Islands disappearing under rising seas or out of control forest fires in Australia the events are happening just as predicted.
Australia provides a particular insight into the future of our world.
Over the past few months Australia has been burning. Five million hectares has burned. Sydney has had dense clogging smoke for weeks. New South Wales has already lost an estimated 30% of its koala population.
It is not even peak bushfire time which normally starts in April. The need to avert even hotter temperatures that will cause fires to be even more catastrophic has to be abundantly clear.
If we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 then by 2030 the introduction of petrol cars into New Zealand’s fleet will be rare. Which is why alternatives to driving, including public transport and walking and cycling will need to be nurtured and supported as much as possible.
The Government and all Councils need to be brave and urgently start investing in infrastructure to get ready for our future.
Because we have to stabilise the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and if possible decrease it. With billions of trees and clean transport systems we can do it. But if we don’t it is clear we will wreck our one and only planet.
If you want an overseas example of what needs to be done then check out a recent announcement by Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. Yes you read that right. He announced that by 2035 only electric vehicles will be allowed into the United Kingdom fleet. And car manufacturers are screaming. From Gwyn Topham and Gillian Ambrose at the Guardian:
The government’s move to bring forward a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2035 has been attacked by manufacturers as a “date without a plan”.
The policy, which will now come into effect five years earlier and include hybrid vehicles, was announced as Boris Johnson launched the forthcoming UN COP 26 climate summit.
While green groups welcomed the news and urged the government to set an even earlier date, motoring organisations said the UK was unprepared for electric alternatives by 2035.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the move risked undermining sales of cleaner, hybrid cars now, and the government needed to come up with a sustainable plan.
The SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “It’s extremely concerning that government has seemingly moved the goalposts for consumers and industry on such a critical issue. Manufacturers are fully invested in a zero emissions future, with some 60 plug-in models now on the market and 34 more coming in 2020.
“However, with current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it’s clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment. A date without a plan will merely destroy value today.
“We need to hear how government plans to fulfil its ambitions in a sustainable way, one that safeguards industry and jobs, allows people from all income groups and regions to adapt and benefit, and, crucially, does not undermine sales of today’s low emission technologies, including popular hybrids, all of which are essential to deliver air quality and climate change goals now.”
Believe me I am no fan of Boris Johnson. But he is right. If there is a date when your country is meant to become carbon neutral then at an earlier date diesel and petrol vehicles will have to stop entering the fleet. And at that time people need to understand this will be their last petrol or diesel vehicle.
My wife and I own two cars, a Toyota Hybrid which is very fuel efficient and a small Mazda that also uses little fuel although more than the Hybrid. Our next car will be fully electric. It is the least we can do.
But it is impractical to think that as a country we can replace every existing vehicle with a new electric vehicle. For a start the carbon sunk into the manufacturing of a new electric vehicle is too much for the world to sustain. Carbon neutrality has to mean carbon neutrality from all sources, manufacturing as well as transport.
And this is why it is vital that we rebuild our cities so that car dependance is reduced. The big Asian cities have done it. They have high densities and prodigious public transport systems, particularly in Tokyo and the larger Chinese cities.
Auckland needs to do the same. The City Rail Link should have been started years ago. Light rail to the airport is a no brainer, as is light rail on the North Western motorway and conversion of the North Shore Busway into a light rail line cannot be far away.
And we need to get on and build walkways and cycleways. If we have to cancel a couple of big motorway projects to do so then we should do it. As an example Penlink will cost in the vicinity of $315 million. A lot of walkways and cycleways could be built for that amount.
Even the Herald’s Heather Du Plessis Allan is urging the Government to be braver. She appears to have had a change of heart. Last September she was saying that belief in Climate Change had become a religion and wondered what the problem was if some people don’t want to stop driving the gas guzzlers or want to keep eating red meat. Then a couple of weeks later she thought that the climate change “frenzy” was terrifying children and she expressed cynicism about “how organic” this youth-led movement is.
But she has recently chided the Government and asked it to be as brave as Boris Johnson in the UK. It is good to see that Heather now realises we are in the middle of a crisis.
She claims that the Government is a “more crappy” version of National. That is really unfair. National did its best to undermine the Emissions Trading Scheme that was introduced by the last Labour Government, dithered and held back on the City Rail Link as long as it could, and dithered for a decade on making the brave decisions relating to electricity production.
She also does not mention NZ First once. The last time I checked they were a part of the Government, and unfortunately, something on a hand brake on Labour’s and the Green’s more progressive ambitions.
But she is right. If we are going to be carbon neutral then we need to have a discussion on the end of petrol and diesel vehicles entering the fleet and what we will do instead.
The climate crisis discussion has now concluded with an overwhelming consensus that we have a problem. We now need to discuss the solutions. And most importantly we need to start implementing them. Now.