The Climate Change Commission will have lots to say this weekend, backed by science and the knowledge that we need to get cracking. Can our political parties respond accordingly?

Would the citizens of Pripyat who worked at Chernobyl before the explosion would have chosen to turn the reactor off? Of course not. Chernobyl delivered for them what we all strive for, a comfortable life.

That’s the analogy for climate change that Sir David Attenborough uses in his latest book, A Life on Our Planet. He challenges us to understand the effect of our every action, on our world.

The Prime Minister has promised more announcements on climate change mitigation in coming months – what should be her fist priority? Click here to comment.

Sir David argues we humans are sending biodiversity into rapid decline at the expense of a comfortable life.

The Climate Change Commission’s first draft Carbon Budgets are due. I suspect they will create plenty of media coverage and will be confronting for individuals and businesses.

Not only because of the size and scale of change we need to make but because it will challenge the very thing, we all hold dear … our comfortable lives.

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We can take some comfort in the small changes we have made – re-usable shopping bags, electric scooters, and increased talk of carbon footprints.

New Zealand was the 10th country in the OECD to declare a climate emergency, government agencies like EECA are working hard to rationalise the crown fleet from its 16,000 vehicles and electrify where appropriate.

This is all good, but it’s not enough and it’s not fast enough. Our government needs to act with courage and step up swiftly with legislation to support Kiwis to transition, particularly with mobility. Here are four things the government should do in 2021.

1. Ban sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030

The Government is looking to introduce a clean car import standard this year, but it needs to go further. England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands are among 12 OECD countries already committed to banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. We should do likewise.

It is essential that we signal the change this year.

For goodness sake, we have more utes driving down Ponsonby Rd than the main street of Taihape.

There is a huge established industry associated with petrol and diesel vehicles so we need to give as much notice as possible so, like nature, they can adapt and survive.

As our Climate Change Commissioner, Dr Rod Carr, says we have the second oldest vehicle fleet in the world after Cuba.

We keep our cars for 20 years so, if we ban new combustion cars by 2030; the last of them will go to the scrap heap in 2050 just in time for New Zealand to be Carbon Zero.

2. Create a larger funding mechanism to rapidly decarbonise public transport.

When you look at Chinese governments subsidy program to electrify its bus fleet, they made it happen rapidly which created an electric bus manufacturing industry. Shenzhen was the poster child with 16,000 electric buses deployed. Across China there are now over 400,000.

Wellington has 98 electric buses on order and Auckland Transport have put another 9 electric buses on the road this month. The government has committed $50 million by 2035, but Auckland mayor Phil Goff will agree this is not enough.

And 2035 is also too late as a target. Additional Central government funding is required now to rapidly increase electrification of all public transport. Imagine travelling on a quiet emission-free ferry!

3. Remove the tax exemption on utes

New Zealand and Australia have the highest rate of ute ownership per capita. I’ve talked to execs who tell me employees will change companies to get a ute and it’s seen as a measure of success.

NZ Transport Agency confirms the rapid increase in our light commercial fleet since 2012 and along with it, diesel emissions. Adding further to this issue the size of diesel engines in utes has also increased during the last decade.

Many businesses choose utes for their fleet as there is an IRD fringe benefit tax exemption. This needs to be removed! For goodness sake, we have more utes driving down Ponsonby Rd than the main street of Taihape.

4. Make EV cabling mandatory in all new builds

A significant barrier to electric vehicles is charging infrastructure. Having been involved with installing over a hundred EV chargers, I can attest to the eye-watering installation costs which are often higher than the capital cost of the chargers.

Zilch has had several experiences where the installation costs were three times that of the chargers, as there had been no provision for EV chargers, in Auckland and even new buildings in Christchurch.

Retrofitting a building compared to a new-build increases the cost. Local and central government legislation is required to ensure any new residential or commercial building have a percentage of it wired for electric vehicle chargers, so it simplifies the ability for chargers to be installed over the next two decades.

I look forward to the draft carbon budget knowing Rod Carr will have lots to say backed by science and the knowledge that we need to get cracking. I sincerely hope our political parties can take a bi-partisan approach to the Climate Change Commission work.

Sir David Attenborough defines sustainability as “the ability for something to continue forever”. If we have bi-partisan government policy, show strong leadership within our business community and the rest of us all play our part, then just maybe, sustainability will be possible.

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