Reduce transport emissions quicker, Greater Wellington says to Climate Change Commission
While Greater Wellington has come out in strong support of the urgency of the Climate Change Commission’s approach to reducing gross emissions, it says the Commission is nowhere near where it needs to be to get the reduction in transport emissions we urgently require.
Talking to Greater Wellington’s just released submission to the Climate Change Commission’s 2021 Draft Advice (to government), Climate Committee chair Cr Thomas Nash said that while Greater Wellington welcomed the draft, speed and impact were vital to turning around the juggernaut of climate change.
“Transport is the number one emitter in our region and our highest priority. So our advice is to significantly increase investment in public transport, and strengthen moves to enable active travel modes,” says Cr Nash.
“We need to fundamentally change our approach to transport. First we should focus on reducing the need to travel so much and so far, then encourage mode shift from private cars to public and active transport and finally decarbonise the transport fleet, bus, rail and ferry.”
Shorter term changes in how and where live – and consequent changes to our travel patterns and habits - have surfaced during the Covid-19 pandemic. People are working from home and commuting less. Longer term changes, such as better integration of urban planning and transport networks, must follow, says Cr Nash.
“We must take advantage of new attitudes towards where and how we live and make the most of them from a climate perspective.
“That means reimagining and renewing our regional spaces, using urban design so people can live closer to schools and workplaces, scaling up smart electrified services within and between towns and cities and building the infrastructure for cycling and walking in urban areas. We need to do all this in ways that recognise the needs of people with disabilities and reduced mobility.”
As a consequence, Greater Wellington’s submission to the Climate Change Commission calls for significant investment in public transport, for example through higher funding assistance rates and mechanisms such as congestion and cordon charging.
“Expanding fleet capacity by buying more electric buses and train carriages will help increase patronage and the rate of people shifting to public transport, but we need a public transport system which is sufficiently compelling to get people to switch out of their private cars. This is why we support the Commission’s proposal to reduce fares to some groups of transport users. A good place to start would be under 18s, Community Services Card Holders and students and apprentices.”
Greater Wellington is also looking for significantly more investment in the use of active travel modes such as cycling and walking. Suggested initiatives include, among other things, expansion of cycleways and cycle skills training schemes, bike purchase schemes (including e-bikes) and limiting car access in designated city areas.
“Progress will be made when we move on – and make the public aware of – the big picture on active transport. We need to invest in, and present, the whole package to tip the scales in favour of mode shift,” Says Cr Nash.
Decarbonisation of the transport fleet is also vital for reducing emissions, and Greater Wellington strongly supports the Commission’s emphasis on decarbonizing the rail system, but notes that the same should apply to bus fleets.
“Greater Wellington is actively pursuing a policy of transitioning from petrol and diesel buses to electric power. We are already committed to adding a further 98 electric buses which will boost our e-buses to 21 per cent of the Metlink fleet.
“But with support we can move faster, and we hope to engage with the Government on how its new fund can speed the pace of transition.
“We’re past the point of buying buses powered by fossil fuels.”
Greater Wellington also strongly supports the Commission’s focus on decarbonising sources of long-lived gas emissions and the re-establishment of permanent native forests.
“Greater Wellington has started the long term process of restoring the climate sinks in our parks by phasing out grazing, planting native forests and restoring and protecting wetlands and peatlands in particular.
“But we believe the Commission is missing a real opportunity to provide incentives to do much more to mitigate emissions from land and soil. The Commission’s accounting framework undervalues the role of natural capital and ecosystem services, effectively excluding them from making a contribution to the emission reduction pathway. Activities such as wetland and peatland restoration, which Greater Wellington is undertaking, are valuable for carbon sequestration and the Commission should acknowledge this value in its final advice.
“One of the key recommendations of the draft, which we strongly support, is the development of a true partnership between central and local government, which is essential to achieving the ambitious goals recommended by the Commission.
“Multi-party and multi-level involvement in the design of policy is vital. Climate change is an issue that faces us all.”