I recently spent three days at the excellent #TG21 Transportation Group conference, which this year ran with the theme of Decarbonising Transport.
Topics and workshops ranged from innovating streets to mode shift, reshaping cities, inclusive and equitable design, electrification, quantifying emissions, recognising transportation professionals and bringing Te Tiriti to transport planning.
It was heartening to feel the groundswell that will take us towards reaching our obligations as a nation under the Paris Agreement.
But are we doing enough?
I started my career in environmental science and sustainable transport, reporting to a manager with a PhD in climate change science. Twenty years ago, my manager took our Orange Environment team to the Greenpeace Business Conference in London. Climate change was a headline item at that conference, we left asking the question: are we doing enough? Scientists wanted action on climate change, but the impacts weren’t yet being felt and the policy response felt slow. It was more about doing things less badly and failed to address the huge system shifts needed to prevent, well, what’s happening today.
Today we cannot ignore the impact of climate change. It’s happening - sea levels are rising, and the weather is fiercer. Critically for Aotearoa, the legislation has caught up in the form of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019. Aotearoa has declared a climate emergency, and policy commitments abounds towards reaching our goals. But will we reach them? Will Government hold itself to account? What’s different this time around?
Maybe it’s the law.
Dr Paul Winton rounded out the conference with a bold presentation from Lawyers for Climate Action NZ (LCANZI) and The 1point5 Project. He challenged whether those responsible for reducing transport emissions were doing enough to meet their obligations both under the Act and also to act in public interest (as set out in government policy). Notably, he highlighted this from the LCANZI submission on Auckland Council’s draft Regional Land Transport Plan:
“LCANZI submits that the RLTP is unlawful. The law requires the RLTP to be “in the public interest”. The Council has made clear in its Climate Plan what this means: to halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, including by reducing transport emissions by 64% from 2016 levels. The draft RTLP does not achieve this. Instead, it provides for transport emissions to increase 6% by 2031, or at best reduce by 12% if the Government puts in place certain policies.
The draft RTLP must be radically overhauled before it can be approved. It must provide for the necessary reduction in transport emissions, consistent with the Council’s own Climate Plan. It will otherwise be at risk of being set aside upon judicial review.
LCANZI President, Jenny Cooper QC, said: “It is baffling that Council and AT have produced a draft transport plan that is fundamentally incompatible with the Council’s own targets and policies in relation to climate change. We urge them to live up to their own declarations and legal obligations and ensure that the final plan meets the demands of the climate emergency.”
LCANZI is also a member of the All Aboard Aotearoa coalition, and support their submission which is available here: https://www.lawyersforclimateaction.nz/news-events/rtlp-submissions
If you’re a decision maker in transport, are you signing off on projects that increase or decrease emissions? Because this time round, it’s not a climate march or a protest by school children that you need to worry about, lawyers are sharpening their pencils.
Technical Principal – Transport
Louise is a technical leader with a strategic focus on transport advisory, smart mobility and transport planning. Louise enjoys the challenge of considering how technology can help achieve policy goals and how transport systems can be changed in ways that improve the livability of cities and towns.