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Ten years of diesel buses – and increased emissions

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released this week called for a steep cut in CO2 emissions within 12 years to avoid irreversible climate change. It highlights the shortsighted and incompetent leadership of Wellington’s Regional Council, which scrapped the trolley bus network in November without a clear plan to replace them with an equivalent or better carbon-free bus fleet.

Opinion by Gillian Tompsett of Re-Volt

In addition to the fiasco around the changes to the bus network and driver contracts, Wellington now has the dubious honour of being the only city in the world to remove sustainable public transport since the Paris climate accord was signed in 2015.

In the run-up to the introduction of the new bus network, the GWRC repeatedly failed to tell Wellingtonians that Euro 5 and Euro 6 buses release dangerous carcinogens and that carbon emissions would increase.

By failing to front-foot a plan to incentivise bus companies Tranzit and NZ Bus to electrify their bus fleets, the GWRC has imposed on Wellingtonians a fleet of predominantly diesel buses for the next 10-12 years: the length of the contracts the GWRC has signed with Tranzit and NZ Bus.

An OIA request by ReVolt to obtain NIWA reports to the GWRC, confirms that nitrous oxide emissions have increased in the city since trolley buses were decommissioned in November.

With only 30 electric buses planned to be on the road by 2021, Wellington will still have less than half the number that were operating in 2017.

The GWRC leadership points to Euro standards as being the best in the world. In fact, it is the state of California that has enacted the world’s most rigorous emissions standards, significantly reducing smog in cities such as Los Angeles.

Despite GWRC assurances to the contrary, Wellingtonians are still very unhappy about what they believe to be unnecessary changes to their bus network. There is no question that the GWRC has damaged Wellington’s brand as the “coolest little capital”.

Central government cannot afford to be complacent or complicit on this issue, following the IPCC Working Group Co-Chair Debra Roberts’ statement this week that “the next few years are probably the most important in our history.”

Given the lack of leadership on this issue from the GWRC, it is time for central government to take immediate action:

  • Significantly increase investment in low carbon transport options
  • Pass legislation introducing vehicle emissions standards to New Zealand
  • Introduce onboard portable emissions testing (PEMS) for public transport to prevent the debasing of emission standards
  • Introduce an emissions star rating system for buses, similar to what we have in place to rate car fuel-efficiency
  • Hold an independent inquiry into the mishandling of Wellington’s bus network (if you agree please sign the petition).

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