We all have a part to play in our battle against climate change. Our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was right when she said when we were elected in 2017 that climate change is our generation’s nuclear free moment.
The signs and evidence are there, our planet is heating up and unless we utilise all the tools we have at our disposal in reducing our climate emissions, we will be on a path that we cannot turn back from.
In early June, our Government announced with the support of the Green Party, the Clean Car Package. Our transport emissions are the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand and so we are needing to take action now if we are going to reach our target of being carbon neutral by 2050.
We have already started taking steps to decarbonise our public transport bus fleet and revitalise our rail network, and while it would be great to have as many people as possible using public transport, it is not always as simple.
That’s why our Government announced a discount on electric, hybrid and low emission vehicles, which will be funded from a fee on high emitting new imports. It will prevent up to 9.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and will help with the upfront cost of switching over with Kiwis getting up to $8,625 back.
As technology develops and more manufacturers decide to stop making petrol and diesel cars, the cost of low emissions vehicles will come down. We are already seeing across the world this trend that will only continue.
I have also heard concerns around the disposal of batteries. Once a battery is no longer suitable for an EV car we will still be able to either use the whole battery, or the pieces of the battery individually and recycle them for use elsewhere.
I know there will be some people who will find the current range of EVs not suitable for their line of work, but a more diverse range such as utes are coming in the future. The question is simple though, we either start to take this course of action now or we risk leaving our planet on a path that future generations will not be able to come back from.
Recently we have seen Government announcements regarding a Ute Tax in order to fund a subsidy on electric vehicles. This Ute Tax will not work and is wrong on many levels.
First, car manufacturers are already moving in this direction. It is clear that most major car makers have signalled that they do not see that non-electric vehicles will be manufactured in the near future. Government did not need to try and pre-empt this market-led approach that would have enabled the manufacturers to have delivered alternative products to the market.
Second, there are no clear alternatives at this time. A ute is necessary for many farmers and tradespeople as they have to transport goods that could not be otherwise done in a car. This “legitimate” use as the PM has described it means that all ute owners will now have to pay the tax.
Third, there is nothing wrong with owning a ute! Some people have a ute as their preferred vehicle even if they are not a tradesperson or farmer. Are we saying people can’t choose the car they want to drive? Will it mean that we are all forced to have smaller capacity vehicles because the Government has decided what sufficient type of vehicle is for New Zealanders to drive?
Fourth, this is a subsidy for the wealthy. This socialist Government is supporting those with money through an incentive to buy a certain type of vehicle. Most struggling New Zealanders will find electric vehicles just too expensive, even with the subsidy.
Fifth, it distorts the market for vehicles. There has been a real run on utes since the tax was announced and this will mean a slower car market next year as many will have made their purchasing decisions. Businesses need certainty and not up and down markets based on Government policies.
Overall, the Ute Tax is a bad idea. It has upset many people and the Groundswell protests on Friday reflect this frustration with the Government. We need sensible and clear environmental policies. Instead, we are getting a stroke of the pen, one-size-fits-all approaches. We know this Government finds it difficult to deliver concrete actions and prefers to force New Zealanders into certain activities. However, this is a recipe for disaster as it doesn’t achieve the environmental outcomes – and those wanting to own a ute will do so regardless.