Today’s Solutions: December 04, 2023

New Zealand has one of the highest per capita carbon emissions rates in the world, but it still has a strong reputation for environmentally responsible behavior. In the spirit of the latter, it plans to help with the former and has just passed landmark legislation that may set a standard for other countries.

“Scrap and replace”

When put before the New Zealand Parliament, the 15-year environmental action plan received near cross-party support, which will give it more resilience if there’s a future political shakeup. The plan seeks to greatly reduce New Zealand’s carbon emissions across the transportation sector and reduce the amounts of cars driving on its roads. 

“This is a landmark day in our transition to a low emissions future,” Jacinda Ardern said in a statement. “The emissions reduction plan delivers the greatest opportunity we’ve had in decades to address climate change,” Ardern said. “We can’t opt-out of the effects of climate change so we can’t opt out of taking action.”

One of the boldest and biggest parts of the plan is the clean car upgrade program. This will support lower- and middle-income families’ transition to electric vehicles and low-emission transportation options in the “scrap and replace” trial. This lets participating families trade-in their existing vehicles and get help buying electric or hybrid vehicles, which are cheaper to drive. 

The plan also involves improving public transportation with greener buses and more frequent tram schedules and expanding bike and walking paths.

More plans

While this initiative to help more Kiwis buy electric and drive less has received widespread support and funding, some argue that it hasn’t gone far enough and that New Zealand should do much more to live up to its reputation. The Te Pati Māori (the Māori Party), for instance, wanted more in the plan. A separate initiative called He Waka Eke Noa aims to address agricultural emissions in a five-year program that will reduce methane emissions and build resilience.

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