A Bay of Plenty environmental sustainability advisor says improving transport methods is a "make or break issue" when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.
And it seems the public agree, with around 60 per cent of public submissions for the draft Regional Land Transport Plan believing weight should be given to environmental sustainability.
That's according to a report to be presented at a Bay of Plenty Regional Council meeting on Friday, to deliberate and discuss the council's investment in the transport plan.
The plan is the Bay of Plenty's blueprint for transport projects as well as its pitch for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency funding for the projects.
Public submissions included improving the safety of pedestrian and cycle routes and having a reliable, multi-modal transport system to support a shift from dependency on cars.
Concerns from submitters included access to public transport and the practicalities of walking and cycling for rural communities, as well as the cost to ratepayers of delivering a low-emission transport system.
Environmental sustainability advisor Glen Crowther told the Bay of Plenty Times he wanted to see specific strategies and targets set in Tauranga to cut carbon emissions, and the development of a more sustainable transport plan.
"The biggest issue is carbon emissions from the transport sector. The transport system accounts for 80 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions in Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty."
"It's a two-pronged problem. Firstly to have the right plan and the right targets at the local level, and secondly to actually have a transport plan that will have a chance at delivering that."
While the draft plan prioritised Tauranga projects, he said aside from agricultural emissions, transport was a major source of emissions in Rotorua, so change was needed across the region.
Crowther, who is with the Sustainable Bay of Plenty Trust and is also the environmental adviser to the Regional Land Transport Committee, believed carbon emissions issues were complex and people often looked to a "magic bullet" to reduce emissions.
But in reality, it involved commuters ditching their cars for buses, bikes, car pools or working from home, as well as getting more freight on to rail.
"We've got to come up with a realistic plan to start reducing the emissions at a practical level because, at the moment, the plan is not fit for purpose compared to what councils like Auckland and Wellington are wanting to do.
"And the big reason for that is the Tauranga council does not have a sustainability plan or strategy. It doesn't have any carbon targets."
Strategy and corporate planning manager at Tauranga City Council Jeremy Boase said the council was working to develop a sustainability plan, which would include setting specific carbon reduction targets and an action plan.
These were expected to be developed this year, and implemented from 2022.
Regional council general manager and corporate and chief financial officer Mat Taylor said the draft regional land transport plan contained a target of reducing carbon emissions from the transport sector by a minimum of 25 per cent by 2030, from a 2020 base.
This was on the path to net carbon zero by 2050, in line with the national direction.
However, Crowther was skeptical about this target being reached because the council had not set out clear objectives on how to achieve this, and believed more progress needed to be made on the ground by investing money into public transport.
The regional council said it was reducing carbon emissions in-house by subscribing to the Toitū Carbon Reduce programme, which had provided visibility on where the council generated emissions. The second annual audit was completed in March 2021, and the council reported an 8 per cent reduction on the previous year.
Sustainability and energy specialist at Western Bay of Plenty District Council Megan Wakefield said the council did not have a carbon emissions reduction target at this stage.
The Western Bay council was working with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority to set in-house energy reduction targets, and working towards joining a carbon reduction certification programme to reduce the council's greenhouse gas emissions.
Rotorua Lakes Council had set a target of reducing non-biogenic emissions by 30 per cent compared to the council's 2015/2016 baseline for 2030.
Whakatāne District Council had set a district goal to be net carbon zero (excluding biogenic methane and nitrous oxide) by 2030.