Climate Karanga Marlborough (CKM) is a climate action group of citizens of the Marlborough Region, with the purpose “to assist elected representatives and their officials to pursue policies designed to limit the extent of rapid climate change and help New Zealanders to adapt to its consequences”. We are concerned about the rapid advance of global warming and work to assist our community and government at all levels in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and preparing the country for the challenges that global warming will bring.
On the whole, we support the great majority of the ideas presented in the MoT green paper and feel that the transition of our society to low emissions transport is an urgent necessity. CKM believes that, if we are to achieve our aim of reducing harmful emissions, then not only do we need to make our consumption of energy in NZ more efficient and effective, we all need to expect to consume, and demand, less energy, particularly energy derived from fossil fuels.
The changes needed to our cities, outlined in Theme 1, are important and necessary, particularly when considering the possibility of limited future transport options in the absence of fossil fuels. Transitioning the nation’s light vehicle fleet to battery electric, proposed in Theme 2, seems to be the most straightforward and low risk option for continued automobile travel. The transition of heavy freight, discussed in Theme 3, will be more challenging and will present more difficult choices.
There are four issues which we wish to submit on, however, where we disagree with or suggest greater emphasis on, strategy elements presented of the green paper. These are outlined below.
CKM submits that the MoT should look to the Climate Commission for its recommendation on biofuels. In recommending a moratorium on new fossil gas hook-ups to industry and residences, the Commission suggested that the fossil gas industry first demonstrate that blending of low-emissions gases, such as bio-methane or hydrogen, with fossil gas (the industry’s proposed method to reduce fossil gas emissions) is feasible and will not result in higher costs to consumers (Section 15.1.5 of the final advice). This would prevent the construction of expensive new fossil gas infrastructure, for which locked-in gas customers would be required to pay.
Similarly, the petrol industry is proposing blending of low-emissions biofuels with fossil petrol as a way of maintaining their market share in transport. This might cause consumers to purchase new internal combustion engine vehicles able to accept the blended fuel, or pay to modify their existing vehicles. If these promises of low-emissions fuels do not eventuate at reasonable cost, consumers would then be saddled with the stranded investment. The MoT should first require that the petrol and biofuel industries demonstrate the viability of blended or pure biofuels before committing the nation’s transportation strategy to them.
In conclusion, we urge the MoT to adopt the “precautionary principle” in planning for New Zealand’s future transport. That means sticking to the low emissions transport solutions that are tried and effective, and require the least amount of energy. That means battery electric vehicles, electrified trains and decarbonised coastal shipping.
The country should not be led down the road of biofuels and hydrogen only to find that these fuels don’t work as planned or create a new set of problems. Let others work the bugs out of these systems first. If they work out, they can be added to the transport energy mix at a later date.
Whatever strategy the MoT ultimately adopts for decarbonising New Zealand transport, it goes without saying that this strategy needs to be in alignment with the strategies of other government ministries and commissions. We appreciate that this will be a difficult and time consuming task. The MoT has its work cut out for it, and it has our support.
Thomas Powell, Co-chair, Climate Karanga Marlborough