Anyone planning to be in New Zealand for the next few years, and to move around the country, might want to read and respond to a consultation document the Government has just released.
It seeks suggestions and other feedback on the plan it has to come up with next May for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to meet the carbon budget for the period to 2025 and to at least put us on the path to the further reductions the Climate Change Commission has recommended out to 2035.
And next year's Budget, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said this week, would be strongly focused on climate change.
Not before time. By then we will already be a quarter of the way through the decade widely seen as make or break for averting global climatic calamity.
Procrastination on The Great Issue of Our Day and Age is not just a Kiwi failing, however.
Releasing the document on Wednesday, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said half of the increase in global emissions since the industrial revolution had occurred since the world supposedly acknowledged the problem at the Rio Earth Summit nearly 30 years ago.
The consultation document is a bit of a curate's egg. Some crucial areas get fairly perfunctory treatment, notably agriculture, on the basis that a separate consultation process with the sector, called He Waka Eke Noa, is under way. It will not deliver an end to farmers' free ride until after 2025, however.
Another is the vexed issue of the relationship between the emissions trading scheme and production forestry: "We intend to look at this issue more closely and if needed will change the change the way forestry is treated under the ETS," says the document.
That said, it is instructive to look at what the document has to say about transport, one of seven sectors covered, as it gives a flavour of the Government's thinking before it hardens into policy.
Transport accounts for about 20 per cent of the country's total gross emissions and 43 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions.
To head for the statutory objective of net zero by 2050, the commission has recommended cutting transport emissions by 13 per cent from 2019 levels by 2030 and 41 per cent by 2035. That lurch lower in the third budget period reflects the lags with which policies envisaged would have the desired effect, but it also represents considerable political risk to the forecasts.
If it happens, it would represent a cut of 6.7 million tonnes of CO2 a year and that would be proportionate to transport's share of gross emissions.
The document discloses that the Government has settled on slightly more lenient carbon budgets than the commission recommended for the first two periods — reflecting, it says, subsequent survey evidence that more forestry sequestration is intended.
But it has a more stringent target than the commission for the 2031-35 period. It is 48 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, which would be a 41 per cent reduction from 2019's gross emissions of 82 million tonnes.
To get there four transport targets are proposed:
• Reducing the number of vehicle kilometres travelled by cars and other light vehicles by 20 per cent by 2035, through providing better travel options particularly in the larger cities
• Increase zero-emission vehicles' share of the light vehicle fleet to 30 per cent by 2035
• Reducing emissions from freight transport by 25 per cent by 2035
• And reducing the emissions intensity of transport fuels by 15 per cent by 2035
Among the policies to facilitate the first of those targets will be "making public transport cheaper". Quite how is not made clear, but this is seen as consistent with the overarching requirement of "just transition", ensuring that the burden of moving to a low-emissions future doesn't fall most heavily on the poor.
Congestion pricing in Auckland and then Wellington is favoured, as is regulating to make it easier for local government to reallocate "street space" rapidly for public transport, walking and cycling.
Central to getting to the target of a 30 per cent zero-emissions vehicle share of the light vehicle fleet are the clean car standard and discount policies already adopted.
The former regulates emissions standards of imported vehicles, lest New Zealand become a dumping ground for vehicles discarded as the rest of the world moves to EVs, and the latter is the feebate scheme known to its detractors as the "ute tax".
The document acknowledges a need for measures, including perhaps a "scrappage" scheme to incentivise the scrapping of old high-emitting vehicles, to "support low-income New Zealanders to shift to low-emissions transport".
It talks of working with industry to address supply constraints for low-emission vehicles and of the need to plan for the rolling out of an EV charging network on a large scale.
And it sees a role for a biofuels mandate to reduce emissions from existing vehicles. It cites research completed last year that estimated there is enough slash from the harvest of existing plantation forests to provide the feedstock to replace 70 per cent of domestic aviation fuel or 30 per cent of all diesel consumed with biofuels made from wood biomass.
More generally, it says the emissions reduction plan will have to create the right environment and space for business to act. "New business models are required, and public attitudes and consumer preferences need to shift to support them."
The consultation document emphasises the need for town planning decisions to assess the impacts on transport emissions, including by prioritising "mode shift" — jargon for changing how we get about — towards more public transport, walking and cycling.
It rejects the idea which has taken root on the political right that all we need is the emissions trading scheme and that proposals like those outlined above are intolerable regulatory over-reach.
Although the cost of the ETS on prices at the pump is 10 times what it was five years ago, the impact on travel has been minimal, it says, and that is consistent with experience overseas.
Relying on the ETS alone to deliver the emission reductions needed would be likely to require far higher ETS prices than the commission envisages in its (rising) price ceiling for unit auctions.
"For example a recent study by Concept Consulting and Retyna estimated that relying on the NZ ETS alone to boost electric vehicle uptake would require a carbon price of $595."
That is nearly 10 times the current price on the secondary market.
The consultation runs until November 24.