Climate Change Minister James Shaw says he thinks more than half of the public sector fleet could decarbonise by the 2025 deadline if inertia and ignorance can be overcome, Marc Daalder reports

Bureaucratic “inertia” and a lack of information about the price and advantages of electric vehicles is to blame for government agencies saying they could only decarbonise half of their vehicle fleets by 2025.

That’s according to Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who alongside Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash oversees the Government’s programme to decarbonise by 2025.

That pledge, made when Jacinda Ardern declared a climate emergency in December, includes a target of electrifying or ditching all of the public sector’s fossil fuel vehicles – “where practicable”.

Newsroom reported in October that Shaw and Nash had received advice saying only half of the Government fleet could meet that target. The remainder would have to be offset through the purchase of carbon credits.

The figures came from an initial survey of government departments subject to the decarbonisation mandate. Nearly 60 agencies, representing 98 percent of the public sector fleet, responded as to what might be “practicable”. As it turns out, only 49 percent of public vehicles could be electrified by 2025, they said.

Shaw told Newsroom the 49 percent estimate would have to be looked at again.

“That number is based on the best information that’s available to the agencies available at the time. I do think that, as we roll the programme out, and particularly if we start to invest in group purchasing and bulk ordering, that will be able to drive that number up.”

He also said that a simple disinclination to change the way things were done could be to blame.

“I think inertia in the system is one of the greatest forces that we’ve been fighting against the entire time,” he said.

“But, again, I think that for a lot of them, they wouldn’t necessarily have had full information available to them. I guess part of the challenge that we’ve got is to make sure that they actually can see their options. But I wouldn’t want to see the ‘practicable’ phraseology used as an excuse not to do something that they otherwise could.”

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment has also released new guidelines to mandated agencies around vehicle purchasing.

According to the document, obtained by Newsroom, there are three valid justifications for purchasing a new fossil fuel vehicle: a lack of availability of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) or plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), EVs not being suited to the role; or supporting infrastructure hasn’t been installed.

The guidelines also dictate that chief executives of each department must sign off on any new fossil fuel vehicle purchases and that new polluting vehicles should be at least 20 percent cleaner than the vehicle they are replacing.

The Government is funding the provision of new vehicles and infrastructure through its $220 million state sector decarbonisation fund. Half of the money has been allocated so far and $17.69 million has specifically gone to fleet electrification projects, funding the procurement of 583 electric vehicles and the installation of charging stations at at least 16 different sites.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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