Can I do my bit for the climate without committing to an EV?

climate change

In the same week the Government unveiled its Emissions Reduction Plan, I faced a moral dilemma as I traded in my vehicle for a fresh set of wheels.

  • Do I blithely bow to the climate zeitgeist and plump for a plug-in?
  • Do I take a bet each way on a hybrid?
  • Or do I go full-subversive and snap up a great galumphing gas-guzzling SUV as a protest against those feral tyre extinguishers on the prowl?
  • Despite the giddy financial inducements, I couldn’t bring myself to virtuously switch to an EV.

As someone who routinely drives cross-country every month for work purposes, I still suffer extreme range-anxiety about these plug-ins and fret about all the faff entailed in recharging them.

Fuss-free charging points are not exactly thick on the ground.

And no, I resisted the guilt-laden urge to supersize my movements with a new SUV.

I finally settled on what I believe is a progressive, incremental and pragmatic move – I purchased a vehicle with dramatically superior fuel efficiency to its predecessor.

By my estimation, the reduced fuel burn will see me slash my personal contribution to vehicle carbon emissions by 15-20% overnight.

By any tangible measure, that is sure-footed progress in curbing greenhouse gases, even if I am sticking with an internal combustion engine for now.

Admittedly, my in-built Jiminy Cricket was strongly influenced by the Government’s focus on improving vehicle emission standards.

The new labelling programme allows consumers to compare vehicles based on carbon dioxide and energy economy.

And from January 1, 2023, the new Clean Car Standard takes aim at the supply of vehicles coming into New Zealand, based on their CO2 emission rating.

My fuel-efficient vehicle purchase last week also chimes with New Zealand’s carbon-cutting glide path and official emissions goals.

The Climate Change Commission has stated that transport emissions must be cut by 13% by 2030, to keep the nation on track to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In Christchurch, road transport is the biggest single contributor to the city’s emissions footprint, contributing 36% – so surely my purchasing decision faithfully complies with the steady focus on carbon reduction.

You’ll be aware that mode-shift plays a key role in the Emissions Reduction Plan and the Government’s wider climate action strategy.

By 2030, the Climate Change Commission wants twice as many trips on public transport and bikes.

In Christchurch, that equates to growing the number of commuters who routinely travel by bus to work from 4% to 8% of all commuters. (Commuting by bike currently sits at 6%.)

But I’m not convinced that permanently slashing bus fares will revolutionise commuter behaviour, particularly given bus fares are already publicly subsidised by as much as 70%. Continue reading

  • Mike Yardley is a Christchurch-based writer on current affairs and travel, who has written a column for Stuff for 15 years.
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