My challenge to you over the summer is to add up what your car truly costs you. Not just the petrol, registration, insurance, tyres and servicing but include the purchase price, the depreciation over its lifespan, its expected residual value. I promise you it is a lot more than you think. Ask yourself if you really need that car?

One good thing to come out of 2020 is that the world learnt to adapt, change and “pivot”. Largely, Covid-19 helped bring out the best of us as individuals and collectively and new words and phrases entered the vernacular – bubble, social distancing, contactless, flatten the curve.

While plenty of focus will still be required to battle Covid-19 in 2021, other global problems are not going away, climate change among them. Lately, I heard Climate Change Commissioner Rod Carr outline the challenges New Zealand faces in meeting its international commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement and our ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050. It was sombering. The country will get a feel for that when the Commission releases its first draft carbon budgets for consultation on February 1.

Dr Carr highlighted that when looking at New Zealand’s average household emissions, we have 16 tonnes of gross emissions per capita. If we remove agriculture, we are still sitting at eight tonnes. By comparison, China, which is literally the factory for the world, has an average of four tonnes of gross emissions per capita.


What would it take for you to swap to an EV for your work or private vehicle? Click here to comment.


Layer on top of that our obligations to the Paris Agreement to keep our net emissions for the next ten years below 601 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This is no walk in the park, and we must get on with it. The Government’s declaring a climate change emergency and Greta Thunberg’s reaction to it underlines the point. Neither business, nor the government, is doing enough – not even close. But we also have to look at ourselves in the mirror as individuals.

Transport is approximately 20 percent of our carbon footprint and we can make serious progress if we tackle this head on, now. Kiwis do have a bit of a love affair with our cars. We have over $30 billion invested in our vehicle fleet and we have the fifth highest car ownership rate in the OECD, and less than 2 percent are electric. When you look at the average use of a car over 24 hours – less than 5 percent – it’s fair to say this is not the best use of capital or carbon.

As Rod Carr also said, how we use our capital is really important as, if we were to just replace petrol and diesel cars with electric, that would require an additional $100 billion over 25 years.


Read more: 
Four things Govt must do on road transport – right now!
Four things bosses must do about vehicles this year


No matter where we live, we can make some smarter decisions with mobility. The lessons of Covid – adapt, change, pivot – can be put into action, starting with us as individuals.

Begin by asking yourself three questions: How do you get to work each day? What car do you drive? Who else is in the car with you during your commute?

We cannot continue with the norm; we must change the way we think about our cars. We cannot just replace our petrol and diesel cars with electric ones, it is more complicated than that.

We need less cars on the road and those cars need to be zero emission. So, ask yourself some searching questions, be honest in your answers and bold in your actions. Could I buy a ute with lower emissions? Do I really need a ute? What do I really need a car for? Would a hybrid work? Would an EV work? Do I even need a car? Do we need to be a two-car family? Could I get a ride to work with someone else or by other means?

Our public transport is improving, cycleways are emerging, carshare, rideshare and electric scooters have arrived. In America 60 percent of metro trips that are 5 miles (8km) or less are completed by micro mobility (bikes, scooters, etc) so we still have a way to go in New Zealand.

In a recent article, Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison explained that 37 percent of Auckland’s carbon footprint came from transport and that 80 percent of the 37 percent was from light vehicles. In the last 10 years, while we have seen a 75 percent increase in public transport and 16 percent in bikes, modelling suggests that 75 percent of trips by Aucklanders by 2030 will still be made in private vehicles.

So, my challenge to you over the summer is to add up what your car truly costs you. Not just the petrol, registration, insurance, tyres and servicing but include the purchase price, the depreciation over its lifespan, its expected residual value. I promise you it is a lot more than you think. Ask yourself if you really need that car? Make 2021 about doing your bit because every bit counts.

Our business leaders and government have perpetuated our current transport problem – there is a lot of talk, but action is sadly coming in a slow second.

Now is the time to pay our part.

Coming up from Kirsten Corson:
* Four things business leaders need to do in 2021
* Jacinda Ardern – three easy wins for our environment

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