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Clark: Automobile, Transport & Environment Summit

5 June, 2008
Automobile, Transport And Environment Summit,

Speech notes for address to the Automobile, Transport And Environment Summit, a World Environment Day event. Legislative Council Chamber, Parliament

World Environment Day
-- --

In 1972 the United Nations Environment programme designated 5 June as World Environment Day.

This year for the first time New Zealand is host country for the day.

So, this week, and especially today, there are many events being held here which promote awareness of environmental challenges and how to solve them.

This international conference hosted by the New Zealand Automobile Association is one of them, and I commend the AA for taking the initiative to organise it.

The transport sector is one of many which is challenged to respond to climate change.

This conference examines some of the issues involved, with a particular focus on the role of the automobile in a more sustainable transport system.

I welcome all overseas participants in today’s event, and especially acknowledge the visiting speakers:

* Tony Bliss, Senior Road Safety Specialist from the World Bank; Tony helped develop New Zealand’s Road Safety to 2010 strategy. Now at the World Bank, he is working on how to reduce road trauma in developing countries. Today he will brief you on the World Bank’s "Safe, Clean and Affordable Transport for Development Strategy".
* We also have with us David Ward from Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA); Today I understand that David is formally launching the Federation’s "Make Cars Green" Declaration. This Declaration was adopted at FIA’s General Assembly. It provides the basis for a year long campaign to support all FIA clubs around the world with the information and resources they need to help consumers "buy and drive green". That is a worthy objective.

Welcome also to the other speakers :

* Shoshi Arakawa, Chairman and CEO of Bridgestone Corporation;
* Mike Harris from the Australian Automobile Association; and
* Hiroshi Nakamura from the Japanese Motoring Association.

The theme set for World Environment Day this year is "Kick the Carbon Habit".

Greenhouse gas emissions are now very widely acknowledged as having a devastating effect on the world’s climate.

Climate change has emerged as one of the greatest environmental and political challenges of our time.

But if we break it down into what individuals, households, communities, businesses and industry sectors, governments and countries can do, solutions can be found. The point is the solutions need to be comprehensive and each of us needs to develop our own capacity to reduce emissions.

At the level of the nation state, New Zealand is very active in the negotiations for a post 2012 global agreement. We have worked to get support for that within all relevant forums in which we participate, including APEC, the East Asia Summit, the Commonwealth, and the Pacific Islands Forum.

My government believes that how nations grapple with the climate change challenge now and in the future will not only have a significant impact on the world’s environment, but will also determine whether nations can prosper and sustain their way of life.

That’s why I’ve issued the challenge that New Zealand aspire to be a truly sustainable nation and to be carbon neutral. I am convinced that moving in that direction is not only right for the planet, but also essential to our future prosperity.

New Zealand is the most geographically remote western country. With the exception of our relatively near neighbour Australia, the world’s affluent markets are a long way away from us.

In a carbon constrained world where, increasingly, first world consumers are making decisions about the environmental integrity of the products and services they buy, we have to go the extra mile for sustainability.

Our nation’s clean and green brand is a priceless asset – but it has to be more than a slogan.

So if we are to continue to persuade people thousands of miles away to buy our goods or travel to our country, we have to be able to assure them that we care about carbon footprints too, and are doing everything in our power to address the issues.

It’s important to front foot this issue – to take leadership of it as New Zealand has done on so many other issues in our short history from votes for women, to the introduction of social security, and becoming nuclear free.

So rather than shy away from the climate change challenge - we must meet it head on. That's why our government has developed comprehensive strategies and policies ranging from the Emissions Trading Scheme to the Energy and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategies; from permanent forest sinks to the introduction of a biofuels sales obligation; from investment in household and business energy efficiency programmes and a rewrite of the Building Code, to increased funding for research into reducing agricultural emissions. The New Zealand Transport Strategy is being updated to bring sustainability to the fore too.

In short we have made achieving greater sustainability central to our vision for New Zealand.


The Emissions Trading Scheme

Legislation for the Emissions Trading Scheme is currently before Parliament and is of great relevance to the transport sector. It establishes the framework for pricing greenhouse gas emissions, as that will drive the behaviour change, innovation, and adoption of new technologies which lower emissions.

The scheme is designed to include over time; all sectors of the economy and all greenhouse gases. It is proposed to phase it in at a pace which is fair and affordable.

The debate on the scheme boils down to the question of how best to apportion the scheme's costs between New Zealanders.

As the Secretary of the Treasury, John Whitehead suggested yesterday, the arguments against wanting to do anything are often crudely reduced to : "not me; not now; not this way; and not until everyone else does it first."

But the effect of delay of the scheme overall would be to swing the costs of New Zealand’s international climate change commitments onto the taxpayer.

In my view, it’s neither fair nor sensible to expect the taxpayer to pick up those costs indefinitely. That doesn’t create incentives to reduce emissions or to prepare us to compete in a carbon-constrained global economy.

This is one of those issues on which it pays to be a leader. The pressures on countries to reduce their greenhouse gases are only going to intensify – not diminish.

One change the government has proposed however, is to delay the entry of transport fuels into the Emissions Trading Scheme from January 2009 to January 2011.

That is because the very steep spike in oil prices is doing much of the Emissions Trading Scheme’s job for it right now.

Petrol prices in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 7.9 per cent per annum on average between the March quarters of 2002 and 2007. Yet between the March quarter of 2007 and the March quarter of this year, petrol prices soared by 20.5 per cent.

The effect of that has been a reduction in the rate of increase of fuel consumption and has helped curtail emissions from our transport sector. People are shifting to smaller cars, more fuel efficient cars, and – where they can – to public transport.

Between 2000 and 2007, the average growth rate of petrol consumption was 1.6 per cent per annum. The 2008 net position forecast projects a nil growth rate in petrol demand over the first commitment period.

It is estimated that between 725 and 900 million litres less fuel will be consumed over the first commitment period than was forecast last year, due to increased forecast fuel prices.

Taking these factors into account, and also the pressures which fast rising petrol and diesel prices have had on businesses and families, the government believes the delay by two years of transport into the Emissions Trading Scheme can be justified.


The New Zealand Transport Strategy

Six years ago our government launched the New Zealand Transport Strategy. The vision was for an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive transport system which contributes to New Zealand’s economic development, and our social and environmental goals.

The Strategy represented a fundamental change in the way New Zealand governments planned a transport programme.

This was the first time that all the modes of transport – road, rail, sea, and air – and the active modes which are sometimes forgotten, like walking and cycling, were looked at in an integrated and long term way.

Now the Strategy is being updated to sharpen its focus on sustainability. The aim is to relaunch it in July.

What we must confront is how to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

They have increased 61 per cent from 1990 – and account for eighteen per cent of our total.

In the New Zealand Energy Strategy launched late last year, we set the goal of halving per capita emissions from transport by 2040.

The revised Transport Strategy will provide direction for the transport sector for the next 30 years. It will help move forward the Government’s sustainable development, energy and climate change agendas as well.

I anticipate the final Strategy will include polices and measures which encourage :

* the use of cleaner fuels and technologies
* more effective management of demand for and uses of transport and;
* walking, cycling, and public transport, and moving more freight by rail and sea.

Each mode of transport must play its part in our long term Strategy.

We are trying to improve transport choices by increasing the quality of public transport, cycling and walking facilities, services, and environments. We are also encouraging the use of telecommunications – such as video conferencing - to reduce or replace physical travel.

Investment in public transport by our government had increased by around 1100 per cent by our eighth budget, and in the development and promotion of walking and cycling strategies, it increased from nothing to an annual $15 million per annum. Central government spending on roading had doubled by our eighth budget.

The Transport Strategy highlights the need to address the planning and layout of our cities; to bring people, their jobs, and the services they use closer together; and to make our cities more sustainable. Accessibility issues need to be identified and addressed for people who are transport disadvantaged - for example, those living in remote areas or areas where there are inadequate public transport links.
Vehicle ownership

New Zealanders do have one of the highest vehicle ownership rates in the world. Our population of 4.2 million people owns 3.3 million vehicles. Eighty per cent of all road travel is by car. Between 1990 and 1999 our vehicle fleet grew by almost 26 per cent, and between 2001 and 2003 by a further nine per cent.


Fuel economy and labelling

A vehicle is probably the most energy intensive appliance any of us will ever own. Given rising oil prices, it makes sense to buy one that is efficient. We have introduced mandatory fuel economy labels which must be displayed on cars for sale in car yards or via the internet. The label shows a star rating – similar to that seen on fridges and other appliances – and also estimates the fuel cost per year, based on an average fuel price and distance.

The fuel economy ratings give New Zealand car buyers the power to make smarter choices, by helping them identify suitable vehicles which will go the distance using less fuel and producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

The New Zealand labelling programme differs from others around the world, as the labels apply to both new and second hand cars. Similar overseas labels only apply to new vehicles.
Biofuels

The government currently has before Parliament legislation for a biofuels sales obligation which would require a proportion of transport fuel sales to be of biofuels. We do want the biofuels we use in New Zealand to be from sustainable sources. Fine tuning of the Bill will occur in the parliamentary process.
Electric Vehicles

Another alternative transport fuel is electricity. Given New Zealand’s capacity for a sustainable renewables-based electricity system, electric vehicles make sense for us. We aim to be one of the first countries in the world to widely use electric vehicles, once the technology reaches maturity.

In my visits to Japan and Korea almost a month ago, I was impressed by the huge research effort going into both electric and hydrogen cell vehicle technology.

And I was very pleased to see a New Zealand designed and made electric bus on Tokyo streets !
Freight

Our love of the road extends also to the way we move freight around. Sixty six per cent of all freight in New Zealand is transported by road. By 2040 the amount of freight we generate is predicted to more than double, putting pressure on existing transportation systems and networks – let alone on our greenhouse gas emissions profile.

Rail and Sea Change Strategies

The Government’s recent buy-back of the rail network is a deliberate investment in achieving a more sustainable transport system, and will contribute to lowering emissions from the carriage of freight. As well the electrification of Auckland’s rail network will make that form of public transport more attractive to Aucklanders, and reduce the network’s reliance on oil.

Shipping is also a relatively energy efficient way of moving freight. Two weeks ago the Minister of Transport, Hon Annette King, announced our Sea Change strategy, which seeks to increase freight movement by sea. Currently fifteen per cent of total freight is moved by sea. By 2040 we want to double that.
Conclusion

On this World Environment Day, we emphasise the need for a better balance between economy, environment, and society. The over-arching vision is for a more sustainable way of life.

A successful transport system must be sustainable in all its aspects. In the economy, it must deliver for industry and users in a sustainable way. Socially it must meet our needs for access and mobility in a sustainable way. And environmentally it must deliver a system which has as low a carbon footprint as possible.

I have no doubt that we will succeed in making our transport system more sustainable. There will be more hybrid and full electric vehicles. More freight will be carried by rail and sea. More people will use public transport, or walk, or cycle. There will be lower greenhouse gas emissions as travel behaviour changes; and the use of alternative fuels, such as in electric vehicles, becomes widespread.

Once again, I thank the AA for bringing together today’s summit.

It is now my pleasure to declare the Automobile, Transport, and Environment Summit officially open.


ENDS

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