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New Zealand Rebate Scheme to Reduce Environmental Costs of Urban Transport

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Modern problems require modern solutions. In a bid to curb environmental pollution, New Zealand is currently being affected by climate change and impacts are set to increase in magnitude and extent over time. In cities and towns, the problem is a mix of the overuse of private motor vehicles, and the use of vehicles that are over-specified for the tasks they are required to perform.

The government recently announced a rebate scheme for electric and hybrid vehicles. In which, buyers of new electric and hybrid vehicles will be able to receive up to $8625 in rebates beginning July 1st, while buyers of used imported low-emission vehicles will be able to receive up to $3450 in rebates beginning July 1st. From January 1, 2022, the scheme will be funded through levies on high-emission vehicles.

The high-tech solution announced in New Zealand is to transition to an all-electric fleet; with 2035 being designated as the year in which the import of non-electric new urban vehicles will be prohibited, with a view to New Zealand having an all-electric fleet by around 2050. The important new policy to accelerate the promoted transition will be a subsidisation of electric and low-emission vehicles, combined with a tax on high-emission vehicles.

Moreover, New Zealand is said to be one of the world’s worst performers on emission increases, and meeting its climate targets will necessitate a shift in its current trajectory. The country’s emissions rose by 57% between 1990 and 2018 – the second greatest increase of all industrialised countries. Earlier this year, data showed that New Zealand’s emissions had increased by 2% in 2018-2019.

If emissions continue to rise, climate change would become unmanageable especially in New Zealand. This is inherently unfair as climate change amplifies social disadvantage, including the conditions that lead to poorer health outcomes for Māori and Pacific populations.

An article by OpenGov Asia reported that the Otago Climate Change Risk Assessment indicated that climate change puts the region at risk of more heavy rainfall events, drought, coastal erosion and inundation, and more extremely hot days exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in the longer term. The report also projected major implications for communities and the economy.

As the planet continues to warm, climate change impacts are worsening. Over 20% of species currently face extinction, and that number could rise to 50% by 2100 if there are no action taken. It is important to emphasise the significant greenhouse gas emissions caused by the use of fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline, and natural gas. However, they are not the only ways that urban vehicle use contributes to global environmental degradation.

The main advantage of electric vehicles is the contribution they can make to improving air quality in towns and cities. With no tailpipe, pure electric cars emit no carbon dioxide emissions while driving. This significantly reduces air pollution.

Being the first country in the world to enforce such a law means New Zealand has an opportunity to show real leadership and pave the way for other countries to make climate-related disclosures mandatory.

As more countries continue to pledge to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, and as technology continues to develop and mature, it is all but assured that the EV revolution is here to stay. Studies estimate that EVs will hit 10% of global passenger vehicle sales by 2025. The number will increase to 28% in 2030 and 58% in 2040.

It is certainly crucial that New Zealanders contribute to the emission-reduction effort, at least in proportion to the influence of greenhouse gases on global environmental harm. By changing the way, we own and use private vehicles represents an important outcome, to which good policymaking can make a valuable contribution.


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