NZ Herald: 18.08.22

Sir Stephen Tindall: Reducing Auckland’s transport emissions makes perfect business sense

Today, Auckland Council has a historic opportunity to provide a tangible solution to congestion and transform the city’s economy if it ratifies the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (TERP).

The TERP sets out how Auckland can reduce its emissions from transport by providing options for meeting the needs of both residents and businesses.

Five years ago, in August 2017, a NZ Institute of Economic Research report highlighted that Auckland’s economy would get a boost of $3.5 million every single day if its traffic congestion was eased.

New Zealand businesses today spend $2 billion-$3b a year on diesel alone for heavy freight. If this was electrified or hydrogen with EV trucks that cost would drop to well below $1b. Thus, decarbonisation will save money, which will go straight back into the economy and provide for improved public amenities — like spending on new services or upgraded infrastructure from hospitals to schools.

We have the data to show that the New Zealand economy could grow faster if we can reduce congestion and emissions by delivering effective public transport options in urban areas.

Removing congestion by investing in more efficient transport like buses and cycleways could give people more transport options and allows business operators, like freight movers and couriers, to travel efficiently with fewer stoppages and costly delays. When they’re not stuck in traffic, plumbers could guarantee reliability and make more money from the same hours, sales teams could see more clients before heading back to the family and building inspectors would increase the sites they sign off each week.

Research in 2021 by SwissRe, one of the world’s leading reinsurers and the world’s largest life and health reinsurer, explains that unmitigated climate change could shrink the world economy by 18 per cent in the next 30 years. In May 2022, the Economist reported that people in the UK are driving less than they used to, purchasing 325,373 fewer new cars over the equivalent period three years earlier. This is part of a global shift away from expensive and inefficient private vehicle use — especially where there has been a concerted move to invest in public and active transport infrastructure at a regional and national level.

Investing in improved public transport has a direct economic benefit to business. International research cited by Waka Kotahi shows that public transport increases productivity between 3 per cent and 23 per cent over other modes such as the private car.

Australia’s Victoria Transport Policy Institute found that for every $1 million spent on public transport, more than 30 jobs were created. Just imagine how many hundreds or thousands of jobs Auckland businesses could benefit from with the completion of a region-wide rapid transit network!

A report released this year from the Ministry of Transport concluded that if just 20 per cent of our current passenger travel shifted to walking and cycling, the health benefits alone would be worth $36.3 billion per annum—and that doesn’t even consider the fuel, emissions or traffic congestion benefits. These productivity and economic benefits assist individuals and businesses through raised income and greater discretionary expenditure.

The Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (TERP) focus on transport is because it is the Auckland region’s biggest source of climate-changing emissions and one where we all, including businesses, can make a meaningful difference while continuing to improve our quality of life and freedom of movement.

Auckland is, of course, Aotearoa’s economic engine room and so businesses – from sole traders to our largest manufacturers – will play a key and integral part in reducing the emissions from the petrol and diesel engines which still make up the bulk of the transport freight industry.

While Auckland and Aotearoa do have a multi-modal transport system, the reality is that 92 per cent of our freight is still moved by trucks. Thankfully, alongside TERP, the Ministry of Transport in association with industry, is developing a 30-year New Zealand freight and supply chain strategy based around a low-emissions freight transport system including hydrogen, electrified trucks, and trains.

Much of the scoping for emissions solutions for the business sector has already been progressed – for example, in 2020 the Sustainable Business Council prepared a paper on how to achieve a low-carbon freight pathway through a three-phased approach (from more efficient fleet optimisation, to biofuels, to electrification of transport operations —primarily through battery storage and hydrogen).

We now have the TERP which provides a detailed and cohesive set of practical steps and gives Aucklanders many more choices to reduce emissions and improve our quality of life. The TERP is supported by substantive data and rapidly evolving technological solutions for business to play its part in reducing transport emissions from the movement of freight.

Importantly, decarbonising Auckland’s Road freight emissions by 45 per cent will see an increase in economic activity and improve all outcomes at once: health, accessibility, environment and safety, as well as making the system more efficient so businesses can thrive now and in the future.

That makes perfect business sense, right?