Greens' Julie Anne Genter hits out at NZTA for failing to commit to short-term carbon emission drops

Green MP Julie Anne Genter has hit out at Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) over its lack of commitment to reducing carbon emissions over the next few years.

The Transport and Infrastructure Committee met in Parliament on Thursday morning, speaking with the NZTA's senior management about its 2019/20 annual review.

The meeting discussed the crown entity's commitment to reducing carbon emissions, which the Government has committed to under the Paris Agreement.

In January, the Climate Change Commission released its first official report which found the Government needs to further reduce emissions to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

The report set three new targets: a 2 percent reduction on 2018 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2025, 17 percent by 2030, and 36 percent by 2035.

In a tweet after Thursday's meeting, Genter, who is the Green Party's transport spokesperson and deputy chairperson of the select committee, criticised NZTA's response.

"NZTA just said at select committee that their capital budgets are mostly committed so they won’t be reducing carbon emissions from transport over the next 3+ years. (Also they don't think improving safety and reducing emissions are always aligned)," she said.

"They say they can't do much because they're finishing committed projects, mainly (in terms on $$) expensive state highways. They seem to think emissions reduction and safety needs to primarily done [sic] through vehicles."

In a statement to Newshub, NZTA said it's "focused on delivering a low carbon, safe and healthy land transport system" and have a sustainability action plan in place.

But the agency admitted significant changes would be required to decarbonise land transport and deliver safety and public health outcomes. 

"Vehicle measures alone will be insufficient and risk exacerbating equity issues. Investment settings will need to change and emissions-based decision making will need widespread adoption."

A spokesperson also said many recommendations by the Climate Change Commission would require "very significant change to the transport system". 

"Waka Kotahi will work with the Ministry of Transport to support any necessary changes to legislation, regulations, policy, funding settings (including the GPS), and resourcing in the sector to deliver on the changes signalled. Responding to the challenge of rapidly decarbonising transport will take significant time and resource to implement.

"While Waka Kotahi is fully committed to progressing this work and helping the Government achieve its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, given the lead times needed to deliver these changes, significant reductions in carbon emissions from transport are unlikely to be achieved during the three-yearly 2021-24 National Land Transport Programme period."