White Paper

Creating a Positive Drive: Decarbonisation of New Zealand’s Transport Sector by 2050

May 8, 2018

by Dr Jeff Vickers, Ben Fisher & Queenie Hon – thinkstep Australasia – November 2018

Creating a positive drive: Decarbonisation of New Zealand’s transport sector by 2050

Transport has a key role to play in New Zealand’s low-carbon future. thinkstep’s new report presents four future visions for New Zealand in which the carbon footprint of transport is reduced by up to 90% of 2015 levels by 2050 through a combination of new vehicle technologies and behavioural changes.

It shows that vehicle technology will likely play the most significant role in decarbonising transport, but that changes in the way we think about mobility will help to drive down carbon emissions even further, while also reducing congestion, promoting healthier lifestyles and increasing security of fuel supply.

The scenarios considered are deliberately optimistic, focusing on a complete transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen and biofuels – all of which can be produced locally. The intention is to understand which changes are likely to lead to the greatest benefits if fully implemented, rather than being overly constrained by today.

The scenarios also consider how we want to travel, factoring in both ‘business as usual’, in which personal transport is private and individualised, and a different model based much more around the sharing economy. In all cases, the improvement over today is dramatic, indicating that transport has a key role to play in New Zealand’s low-carbon future.

Achieving such large improvements comes with trade-offs: electricity generation would need to nearly double, or 5% of all agricultural land in New Zealand would need to be converted to biofuel production. It is also likely that these scenarios would take the full 30 years to be realised, given the scale of renewable energy that would need to be produced and that some of the required technology is not yet fully commercialised.

A reduction in transport emissions by 90% would reduce New Zealand’s total gross greenhouse gas emissions by 17%, assuming that the share of emissions from transport remains constant in the future. The good news is that many of the solutions to rapidly decarbonise New Zealand’s transport sector already exist.

The role of government and business, as we see it, is to make these low-carbon choices easy and convenient. Encouraging uptake of ride-sharing through widespread use of carpool lanes and other incentives offers the potential for a quick-win, alongside creating a pricing model for electric vehicles that makes them attractive to New Zealand consumers. Investment in biofuels and renewable hydrogen, together with continued investment in renewable electricity generation, seem like logical next steps beyond this.

Transport scenarios for 2050 relative to 2015. All of these scenarios assume that EVs are used for passenger journeys and that planes and ships use biofuels. The scenarios consider the impacts of using biofuels for heavy and commercial vehicles (left hand side) vs hydrogen fuel cells (right hand side). They also look at what happens when personal travel behaviour continues as it is today (top half) vs a more shared or avoided approach using increased uptake of public transport, car sharing, teleworking and home deliveries from online shopping (bottom half).

>> More about thinkstep Australasia


You might also be interested in the Press release: "Low-carbon transport by 2050 is possible with trade-offs”  
>> Read Press Release

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