Earlier this year young people from around the country gathered outside Parliament to present their demands for urgent climate action. They encouraged New Zealand to respond to the existential threat of climate change as it has to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Just a couple of days later the Government outlined the next steps in our work to tackle this issue, announcing a raft of new policies focusing on a cleaner, greener transport network.
We've already committed to policies that will make a difference, like the Clean Car Import Standard, decarbonising the public transport bus fleet and revitalising rail, but we have to do more.
New rebates for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will start on July 1 with up to $8625 for new vehicles and $3450 for used.
A discount on electric, hybrid and low emission vehicles funded from a fee on higher emitting ones is the best policy to increase low emissions vehicle uptake in New Zealand.
Our transport emissions are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand.
Not everyone will switch immediately but, for instance, in our family, the teens are heading to university and we were already considering changing the 15-year-old mum-mobile to a smaller vehicle. This will accelerate our decision making.
New Zealand is actually lagging behind on the uptake of EVs, so we are playing catch up internationally. Our monthly registrations of EVs is around half the global average and sales are well below the 50 per cent of monthly sales seen in some European countries.
Electric vehicle chargers are now available every 75km along most state highways to give Kiwis confidence, and the Low Emission Transport Fund will have nearly four times the funding by 2023 to continue to grow the nationwide EV charging network and support other low emission refuelling networks.
It's a common policy overseas, a recommendation of both the Climate Commission and the Productivity Commission, and is supported by the likes of the Motor Industry Association – it's time to get moving with it.
Importantly the policy applies only to new and used cars arriving in New Zealand, so the existing secondhand market of cars that lower income families tend to purchase from will not be affected.
The Low Emission Transport Fund has already co-funded more than 1100 electric vehicle chargers nationwide, and as part of Budget 2021 we're increasing our investment so total funding for the programme will reach up to $25 million per year by 2023/24.
Other projects using low emission fuels like biofuels and hydrogen, will also now be eligible for funding.
The increase in demand for biofuels here could also stimulate the development of a domestic biofuels industry, creating much-needed job opportunities in regions like Northland.
We know the Government has shown interest in how Refining NZ could redeploy its existing strategic assets and staff capability to play a significant role in New Zealand's transition to a net zero emissions economy, such as Refining NZ's potential in biofuels production.
I want to finish by thanking the young people who gathered at Parliament. I receive the same strong messages from students at our Whangārei Youth Forum.
Please know that your collective efforts have an impact, reminding us that we all have a duty of care to our environment and we must act now to protect the place we call home for the future.
• Emily Henderson is the electorate MP for Whangārei. She can be contacted at Emily.HendersonMP@parliament.govt.nz