The 348-page plan is a response to the Climate Change Commission's roadmap for how to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It sets out how the country will meet its first emissions budget and transition to an achievable and affordable low emissions future. WSP is right behind it.
Decarbonising the transport system, which accounts for 40 percent of New Zealand's domestic emissions is a major focus of the plan.
WSP Principal Transportation Planner Nerissa Harrison and Technical Director for Transport Theunis van Schalkwyk say actions set out in the ERP to reduce people's reliance on cars and rapidly adopt low-emissions vehicles are welcome and long overdue.
"Our cities are going to have to do some heavy lifting to reduce vehicle kilometres travelled by 20 percent by 2035, so it is great to see central government throwing its support behind improving urban form in our cities and providing national direction for walking and cycling. It's also great to see support for lower income New Zealanders through making public transport fares more affordable, and e-bikes and low emission vehicles more accessible.
"Importantly, the ERP recognises that transport is not just about how people get around. It is something that fundamentally shapes our towns, our cities, our countryside and our whole quality of life. That will benefit everyone, but key to the success of the ERP's vision for sustainable transport will be making the economics of transport decarbonisation work."
Building & construction
Building and construction emissions is another area targeted in the ERP. WSP Director of Property and Buildings Neil Barr is pleased to see that it includes a range of actions aimed at driving down embodied and operational carbon in buildings, including supporting innovation and regulating to promote the use of low emissions building design and materials.
Neil says WSP has already committed to halving the carbon footprint of infrastructure designs and advice provided to clients by 2030, but the ERP underscores the significant potential of the construction sector as a whole in helping reduce the country's carbon emissions.
"The building and construction measures set out in the ERP hit the nail on the head in lowering emissions in existing and new buildings. But this needs to happen quickly.
"With materials technology advancing at pace, we're increasingly able to design and construct buildings to use as little energy as practical. From extraction of raw materials to manufacturing, construction, maintenance and deconstruction, it's never been more critical to consider a building's whole-of-life carbon emissions.
"Taking a digital approach and understanding the power of digital twins will also help us lower the carbon footprint of buildings by optimising all aspects of design, construction, operations and management in more energy efficient ways."
WSP Director of Power Rebecca Tjaberings commends the ERP for recognising the vital role that clean energy sources such as hydro, wind, geothermal, solar and bioenergy are set to play in New Zealand's transition away from fossil fuels.
"We're fortunate that 84 percent of electricity produced in this country is from renewables, but when it comes to total energy use the figure is 40 percent. We use petroleum fuels to drive our vehicles, gas to heat our homes and coal for various industrial and commercial uses.
"The ERP sets out a challenging but necessary series of actions to phase down use of these fossil fuels, improve energy efficiency, scale up low-emissions energy sources and increase targets for more use of renewables."
WSP Technical Director of Environment Carole Smith says solving the climate crisis is a generational challenge that will not happen overnight. Change will be needed across all sectors of the community. While the changes required are challenging and will need investment and innovation, there is a real opportunity to address some of the things that, up until now, have not served us well.
"The ERP that has been issued this week is not perfect. Some of the initiatives that have been set out will fail but others will succeed. With just-published research from the UK Met Office showing there's a 50/50 chance of the world breaching the Paris Agreement's 1.5 degree warming limit in the next five years, the point is that we must start. We must get these initiatives underway, we must be prepared to regularly review, to adjust direction for some initiatives and accelerate pace for others.
"Every sector of our society should prepare themselves to get involved. This is not just a problem for policy makers, it is an opportunity for businesses, innovators and individuals. Every single person and organisation will have to play their part."
Read the Emissions Reduction Plan in full here.