If we are going to be carbon neutral by 2050 then something radical has to be done about transport. It has been explained to me that basically from 2030 all new introductions into the vehicle fleet have to be electric or hydrogen powered.
And the Government has started the work now on tilting the vehicle fleet away from gas guzzlers and towards more efficient vehicles. By announcing a proposal to tax the former and give a discount for the latter.
Heavy-polluting gas guzzlers could soon be slapped with an import fee, with the revenue going towards subsidising clean, green vehicles.
Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter has revealed a government proposal of price hikes and discounts for light vehicle imports based on their CO2 emissions by 2021.
The plan – which is designed to revenue neutral, costing taxpayers nothing – would add a range of fees or subsidies.
It would mean about $8000 off the price of new or near-new imported electric vehicles (EVs). Fuel-efficient petrol cars would also be cheaper, while the heaviest-polluters would cost $3000 more. Vehicles with middling fuel efficiency would face neither a discount nor a fee.
The scheme would cover all new and used light vehicles coming into the country. It would not apply to cars already on New Zealand roads.
A new fuel efficiency standard would also be introduced, requiring importers to gradually reduce the average emissions of the vehicles they bring in.
Ms Genter said the policies would help make electric, hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles a “realistic option” for more New Zealanders by reducing their upfront cost.
“The most popular SUV in New Zealand right now is a [Toyota] RAV4. Under this policy, the hybrid version would be cheaper than the petrol version.”
Ms Genter said New Zealanders would also save thousands of dollars because of lower transport costs over their lifetime. The discounts and fees would be displayed on vehicles available for sale.
She said it was only fair that the discounts be financed by “small fees” on the most polluting vehicles. For example, a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser – which retails for more than $100,000 – would be hiked $3000.
There would also be discounts/price hikes for used vehicles.
The move is a good one although there still needs to be a debate about the amount of sunken energy there is in the construction of vehicles. And continuous improvements in public transport as well as micro transport options such as the dreaded scooters will still need to be an important part of the mix. We are going to have to review the way that we travel as well as what we drive.
No doubt there will be an outcry from the urban living SUV drivers wondering how they are going to cope. I can hardly wait to hear Mike Hosking’s take on the issue.
But if we are to become carbon neutral we need to drive petroleum consumption down as close to zero as we can manage. Best we start now.