New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern says her government will require local councils to buy only zero emissions buses – either electric or hydrogen – from 2025 and will eliminate fossil fuel buses from the public transport network by 2035.
The election pledge made in the lead up to the polls on November 17 is the headline measure announced in New Zealand Labour’s climate package, which also includes the elimination of coal-fired boilers from schools and business, and a commitment to 100 per cent renewables by 2030.
Ardern, who drives an electric Hyundai Ioniq, says her government will give $50 million over four years to councils to support the shift to zero emissions buses.
“I have said that climate change is my generation’s nuclear free moment and the work we have done – and plan to continue – demonstrates Labour’s commitment to that,” Ardern says in the new policy statement.
“Transport makes up about 20 per cent of New Zealand’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions and is the fastest growing source.
“This needs to change so Labour will require that only zero emissions buses be purchased by 2025 and will target decarbonising the public transport bus fleet by 2035.”
New Zealand has some 2,600 buses operating in the country, mostly in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Some of these councils are making moves towards electric buses – Auckland has two electric buses and will soon have eight more operating, Wellington is adding another 98 to its existing fleet of 11, and Christchurch plans to have 92 e-buses by 2022, or 46 per cent of its fleet.
Labour says it wants to accelerate this shift and says its plans are particularly focused on smaller cities transitioning their fleets.
The Labour policy document notes that the UK’s emissions were 44 per cent below 1990 levels in 2018 and the European Union’s 25 per cent below 1990 levels in 2019. But New Zealand’s gross emissions have increased 23 per cent since 1990.”
“If we don’t take action on climate change, we will be left behind and lose our reputation for being clean, green and internationally responsible,” the Labour policy document says. “Our clean and green image underpins much of our economy and New Zealand needs to be seen to be playing our part.”
Labour also intends to introduce a vehicle fuel efficiency standard for new and used light commercial vehicles (New Zealand and Australia are two of only three OECD countries not to have fuel efficiency standards).
The standard will aim for a target of 105 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2025 (that target was reached in Japan in 2014), but it says it will save more than $NZ6,000 in fuel costs for the average vehicle over its lifetime and more than $NZ3.5 billion in overall fuel costs.
The fuel efficiency of cars in New Zealand is so bad that New Zealanders pay an estimated 65 per cent more for fuel than the average person in the European Union, even though petrol prices are higher in Europe.
Labour will also increase funding for EV charging stations to $NZ25 million a year – evenly shared by Government contributions and sector levies – to expand the current network of more than 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations.
The Greens, currently in minority government with Labour, welcomed the initiatives but wants the country to go further and quicker. It promotes a “feebate” scheme that will make the purchase price of electric vehicles more competitive, and it wants to put solar panels on every suitable state home.
Labour is currently leading in the polls with around 47 per cent, followed by the Nationals with 33 per cent and the Greens with 7 per cent. National leader Judith Collins has repeatedly pointed out that New Zealand contributes 0.17 per cent of global gross emissions.