End of petrol cars: NZ must ban fossil-fuelled imports by 2032, says Climate Change Commission

New Zealand must ban the import of petrol and diesel cars by 2032 in order to reach its climate change targets and decarbonise the economy, new advice recommends.

And Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government “will not hold back” on taking action and committed to setting more ambitious emissions commitments by the end of the year.

She called the Climate Change Commission’s blueprint for New Zealand to be carbon neutral by 2050 “achievable and affordable”.

One of the key recommendations was to ban the import of fossil-fuelled vehicles within 14 years and half of all new cars and motorbikes need to be electric by 2027.

“Achieving this phase out is ambitious, but achievable with strong supporting government action. This timeframe is consistent with the phase out dates being set by a growing number of countries,” said the report.

The commission recommended implementing a feebate or subsidy for electric vehicles – a policy which was attempted last term but was shut down by New Zealand First.

That scheme would have made some cleaner cars $8000 cheaper and other dirtier cars $3000 more expensive.

The commission also said New Zealanders needed to walk, cycle and catch public transport more and proposed lowering bus, train and ferry fares for some groups.

Ardern said policies would need to consider barriers some Kiwis have to swapping to an electric vehicle such as only having on-street parking.

She also committed to working to get consensus in the House and bring along the private sector so it could have certainty that commitments wouldn’t change under different governments.

Ardern called meeting the emissions targets one of the “most significant” pieces of work her Government would undertake.

The decisions and actions over the next five years will be “crucial to our success” and committed to improving New Zealand’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in order to meet our obligations under the Paris Agreement this year.

Speeding up the response to climate change would reduce emissions faster and help New Zealand be at the front of the curve of climate action which presented opportunities, such as owning the rights to new technologies, Ardern said.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said if New Zealand rose to the challenge of climate change, the opportunity was “huge” because it would create new jobs and encourage innovation.

Shaw said New Zealand needed to focus on net emissions reductions because we couldn’t “grow our way” out of climate change by planting trees.

“We have to choose right now. Previous generations didn’t have the technology but we do. Future generations won’t have the chance – it will be too late.”

Shaw said he’d never been more confident that a clean-tech and high value economy that worked for everyone was within reach.

National’s Climate Change spokesman Stuart Smith said the Government must test every policy it makes in response to the commission’s advice.

“New Zealand needs an effective plan that is based on practical, sensible solutions. We can’t afford to waste money on policies that won’t make a genuine dent in emissions.

“The Government must have a reliable idea of how many tonnes of greenhouse gases a policy will remove from the atmosphere before deciding whether or not to fund it.”

The Act Party’s Climate Change spokesman Simon Court said the Government’s policies left few options beyond “massive public sector spending and more onerous regulations on our most successful businesses”.

He said the proposed ban on importing petrol and diesel cars by 2032 was a “political stunt” because it “will do nothing to reduce emissions in the current commitment period”.

Court said the ban on natural gas exploration meant any transition to a low carbon future will be much more expensive in the short term compared to our trading partners and neighbours.

Meanwhile Greenpeace said it welcomed key parts of the report but said the ambition falls short of “transformational” and continued “a long tradition of giving the dairy industry a free pass to pollute”.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Steve Abel said the commission’s draft plan seemed more anxious about maintaining the status quo than “biting the bullet in the existential crisis of our time”.

“It effectively says ‘We can only save the planet so long as we don’t have to produce one kilo less milk or meat by 2035’. That ain’t transformation,” said Abel.

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