New Zealand’s first ever emissions reduction plan is open for consultation until 24th November . The full ERP Discussion Document is here

I checked the transport section, looking at how it stacks up against IPCC recommendations. And there’s a pretty major gap. A short overview below, and some support re submission at the end of the post.

IPCC Summary for Policymakers

For reminders, the latest IPCC Summary for Policymakers [1] examined 5 illustrative scenarios. The lowest scenario, SPP1-1.9, means carbon neutrality in 2050 and leads to + 1 to 1.8 °C in 2100. Note the large uncertainty and the fact that even this scenario leads us potentially to close to +2 °C.

The report notes the complexity of modelling and the fact that “ice-sheet instability processes [are] characterized by deep uncertainty and in some cases involving tipping points)”, p. 21.

All of the above suggests extreme caution and the need for structural changes in our day-to-day lives. The kind of changes that we have been able of in war time or pandemic times.

Emissions Reduction Plan

The Emissions Reduction Plan [2] has four transport targets:

  • reduce vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by cars and light vehicles by 20 per cent by 2035 through providing better travel options, particularly in our largest cities
  • increase zero-emissions vehicles to 30 per cent of the light fleet by 2035
  • reduce emissions from freight transport by 25 per cent by 2035
  • reduce the emissions intensity of transport fuel by 15 per cent by 2035

Transport is the fastest growing source of GHG in New Zealand, and car traffic constitutes the bulk of it. The reduction of 20% of VKT by 2035 means -40% by 2050, if the same pace of reduction is maintained, far from the needed -100%. On the other hand, “zero-emissions” vehicles are to increase. Examining the strategies related to transport (p. 15), we can see that they include:

  • 6 measures re technology and vehicles
  • 5 good albeit very vague ideas – e.g. “implementing mode-shift plans” or “making school travel greener and healthier”
  • 5 “investigation” measures – e.g. “investigate options to encourage greater use of coastal shipping”
  • 4 targeted measures – e.g. improving PT service, implementing Rail Plan, supporting local govt in reallocation of street space. Let’s note however that the Rail Plan is not a binding document, and linked to no funding, as of now. It is also not specific, and lacks ambitious targets although its purpose is to “send a signal” [3]
  • as well as some components of direction-setting and policy – congestion pricing and “biofuels” mandate.

Overall, we have a plan that is vague and predominantly tech-oriented. Examining the discontinuation of the automobility regime in Europe, Hoffmann and colleagues [4] noted the importance of land use, parking management, traffic restrictions and regulation of GHG emissions, warning that promotion of modal and technological alternatives had a limited efficiency.

Therefore, the plan both lacks ambition and promotes measures that are unlikely to lead to the significant change we need.

The consultation is open until 24th November – please submit your views. This submission guide prepared by Bike Auckland can be handy. In all cases: better a short submission than not saying anything at all!


1. IPCC. (2021). Climate Change 2021 – The Physical Science Basis – Summary for Policymakers (No. IPCC AR6 WGI SPM) (p. 41). Retrieved from

2. Ministry for the Environment. (2021). Te hau mārohi ki anamata – Transitioning to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future – Have your say and shape the emissions reduction plan (No. ME 1581) (p. 130). Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand: NZ Government. Retrieved from

3. Ministry of Transport. (2021). He Mahere mō Ngā Ara Tereina ki Aotearoa | The New Zealand Rail Plan (Strategy) (p. 48). Retrieved from

4. Hoffmann, S., Weyer, J., & Longen, J. (2017). Discontinuation of the automobility regime? An integrated approach to multi-level governance. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice103, 391–408.