A Carbon-Zero Capital


By John Klaphake :: Posted 29 July 2016

Taking Steps to a Carbon-Zero Wellington

We all know climate change is happening. While there may be up's and downs in average annual temperature, the overall trend clearly indicates that things are getting warmer. It should be no surprise that a significant cause of climate change is carbon emmissions, and that the cause of these carbon emmissions come as a result of human activities. Yes, that's right, we're mainly responsible.

The role of central and local government is critical in creating the right incentives and disincentives for the uptake of green transport technologies. We can't rely an a flawed market system to do that for us, especially one that takes no account of externalities.

Our intrinsic belief that our children are our future. If that is really so we should be thinking about the type of world we want to leave behind. At this present point of time the things I can see we are leaving behind is a world plunded of its natural resources and an ever increasing toxic environment. That's our gift to our progeny, our children and our children's children.

It is not too late to change and start to heal the damaged world that's been generations in the making. It's not even a matter of feeling guilty for the state of our environment. It's just a question of acknowledging the fact that we need to listen to what science is telling us and do something about it.

The big message coming from science is that we need to drastically reduce of carbon emissions. Change takes place over time, and turning the tide on carbon and greenhouse gas emmissions will also take time. Where we don't have time is in making the decision. We need to act now.

I am not naive to think that we can reduce our carbon emmissions to zero. I'm also well aware the effect that our city can make on reduction of greenhouse gases on a worldwide basis is pretty much zero. What I do think however, is that we can be the example that others will want to follow.

One significant area where we can all contribute to a positive change is in how we move around the city. Just think of the difference we could all make by using a regular and reliable public transport service and changing to electric cars. In both of these instances we do need the example and incentive to make the switch. Narrow market forces are pretty much a blunt intrument in this respect.

I find it very difficult to understand why the government is not leading the way in this area, especially in purchasing electric cars for its own vehicle fleet. It could also provide tax incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, not only for other vehicle fleets were also for private purchasers. The same could also be said for local councils as well. Granted the upfront cost of purchasing electric vehicles is greater, but charging them up costs peanuts. And, maintenance and running costs are negligible because there are so few moving parts.

Local and regional councils in the region should also be taking a higher profile to ensure more buses are serving the community (regular and reliable!) and to initiate the shift towards public transport. This is where a part of the problem lies - creating the incentive to use and the disincentive not to use a car. Both have to work in tandem. Often, the gentle hand of market forces just doesn't provide the right incentives, especially when externalities are not taken into account.

Wellington and the region is one place in New Zealand where we can create the fault line, and create that seismic shift to the use of renewables by changing how we get around our city and region. And, if we can and we believe in it, why don't we?

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