New Zealand

Planes, trains and the climate crisis – why New Zealand shouldn’t close its railways | Robert McLachlan

For a people represented by a flightless bird, Kiwis fly a lot. While globally, aviation emissions accounted for just under 3% of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, for New Zealand that figure was 12%. New Zealand ranks sixth in aviation emissions per capita, with one tonne of carbon dioxide per person, around 10 times the global average. This ranks fourth for emissions per capita in domestic aviation – just ahead of Canada, even though Canada is 40 times larger than New Zealand.

This is perhaps not surprising. New Zealand is far from most population centers. It has a large tourist industry and a population with families scattered around the world – 27% of the population is foreign born and around one million Kiwis live abroad.

But that’s a problem, because there’s no easy way to replace fossil fuels for long-haul flights. As John Vidal, the former environmental editor of the Guardian, pointed out, the only real option in the short to medium term is less theft. Vidal mentions passenger rail as an alternative in the UK and Europe. But that is not an alternative in New Zealand, as we have dismantled our long-distance passenger rail network, a process which has now entered a critical and possibly terminal stage.

The national rail services operator, KiwiRail, announced at the end of 2021 that it was suspend the Northern Explorer form. This connected the largest city, Auckland, to the capital, Wellington, along a corridor containing 60% of New Zealand’s population. The train linking the Picton ferry port to the South Island’s largest city, Christchurch, also disappeared. The removal of the Northern Explorer leaves New Zealand as the world’s only advanced economy without a day or a night Train linking its largest cities.

Now the only alternatives are driving, flying or taking the bus. But even though the latter is a low-carbon form of travel, New Zealand stands out internationally for the bad quality of its long-distance coach services. While countries like the UK, Norway, the US and Australia have long had buses with toilets on board, New Zealand does not. There are also no good accessible off-bus or roadside toilets. Weatherproof bus stops are rare.

The only political party that supports long-distance passenger rail transport is the Green Party. But even they remained almost silent on the issue of train suspensions. A Railway map was released by the government in 2021, but it does not support long-distance passenger rail. The Climate Change Commission has also been silent on the contribution long-distance rail could make to decarbonising domestic travel.

It was mainly non-governmental organizations and individuals who advocated for passenger rail transport. In 2017, the advocacy group Greater Auckland make a plan to develop rapid rail in the golden triangle of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga. A save our trains was launched in January 2022 to bring back long-distance passenger rail. These campaigns recognize the benefits of rail in terms of reducing carbon emissions and connecting communities.

Meanwhile, the airline industry continues to promote growth. There are expansion plans for airports in Wellington and Auckland and a proposal, funded by taxpayer-owned Christchurch Airport, to build a major international airport in Otago. It also involves public funding.

So if the government sees the future of long-distance travel in New Zealand being almost solely aircraft dependent, does it have a clear strategy for decarbonizing domestic aviation? the draft emission reduction plan was few details, although it was recognized that for land transport, the emissions trading system (which also covers domestic aviation) will not be able to achieve the full transformation required.

Then, in November at COP26 in GlasgowNew Zealand and 22 other nations have joined the International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition, pledging, among other things, to “prepare updated state action plans detailing ambitious and concrete national actions to reduce air emissions. aviation”.

What would such a plan look like? In one new report, I’m looking at all the options. Global interest in net zero aviation by 2050 is growing, and New Zealand needs a bold national plan to begin the rapid decarbonization of regional travel. Given the significant challenges of reducing emissions from flights, this plan should include trains.

Planes, trains and the climate crisis – why New Zealand shouldn’t close its railways | Robert McLachlan

Source link Planes, trains and the climate crisis – why New Zealand shouldn’t close its railways | Robert McLachlan

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