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Low-Carbon Transport by 2050 is Possible with Trade-Offs

Low-Carbon Transport by 2050 is Possible with Trade-Offs

Reducing the carbon footprint from transport in New Zealand by up to 90% by 2050 is achievable with a combination of new vehicle technologies, behavioural change and substantial investment in renewable energy generation, states a new report by sustainability advisors thinkstep. Renewable electricity generation would need to nearly double, or 5% of all agricultural land in New Zealand would need to be converted to biofuel production, to support low carbon transport from local energy sources.

“Currently transport is responsible for roughly one fifth of all GHG emissions,” says Dr Jeff Vickers, Technical Director of thinkstep and lead author of the report. “When considering the carbon footprint of products and services that New Zealanders consume – rather than including those that are destined for offshore markets – transport’s contribution jumps to over 40%.”

“Many people think that enabling alternatives to the car is the best way to reduce carbon emissions in New Zealand,” says Stephen Selwood, Chief Executive of Infrastructure New Zealand. “But thinkstep’s report calculates that a shift to electric, biofuel and hydrogen powered vehicles has potential to reduce carbon emissions from consumption by up to 88% by 2050.

“While car sharing, teleworking, online shopping and home deliveries, uptake of public transport, and reduced distance travelled due to urbanisation can all help unclog our roads and improve urban amenity and liveability, the report predicts that their contribution to reducing carbon emissions is comparatively small at 15%, for a combined reduction of 90%.

“This analysis confirms that we should pursue rapid electrification supplemented by biofuel and fuel cell vehicles as the principal means to enable a low carbon transport system,” Selwood says.

Technological change will be the biggest win, but will take time to roll out. Ride-sharing and increased uptake of public transport can cause a positive change in the short term.

“While we still depend on fossil fuels, ride-sharing has the potential to be a quick win for New Zealand on climate change,” says Dr Jeff Vickers. “It reduces carbon emissions and road congestion immediately, and the carbon story gets even better as we move to electric vehicles.

This is something that could happen virtually overnight, as all you need is a smartphone.” 90% reduction is only achievable if government and businesses act decisively. Councils can encourage ride-sharing through phased introduction of new carpool lanes, while businesses can encourage ride-sharing among their employees. “If the ride that is shared is in an electric or biofueled vehicle then even better,” says Vickers.

This report “Creating a positive drive: Decarbonisation of New Zealand’s transport sector by 2050” follows thinkstep’s first sector-specific carbon footprinting report for New Zealand, which was published in May and focused on the built environment. The full report can be downloaded from: transport-report.thinkstep-anz.com / ENDS

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