Tackling Traffic - big opportunities for business in climate change solutions

1 May 2017
Business Plus Magazine

Traffic snarl-ups already strike one in four main roads inAuckland during peak commuter periods. By 2020, Auckland Transport predicts onein three main roads will be congested if current trends in population andvehicle use continue. 

The cost to our businesses, lifestyle and the environment issignificant.

A major independent report identifies some pathways for NewZealand to achieve the carbon reduction targets set in the Paris Agreement in2015. These pathways also offer solutions to Auckland's traffic woes and bringbig opportunities to business.   

The Vivid Economics Report called 'Net Zero in New Zealand'was commissioned by 35 New Zealand MPs. It explores several scenarios thatwould help New Zealand achieve the target of net zero emissions during thesecond half of this century. 

It makes it clear that New Zealand needs to do much morethan just beef up its Emissions Trading Scheme.

Scenarios to lower emissions

In one scenario, 85 per cent of New Zealand's passengervehicle fleet would be decarbonised, with 3.5 million electric cars and lightcommercial vehicles on our roads by 2050. As the technology becomes better andcheaper, up to 25 per cent of the heavy vehicle transport fleet would also goelectric.

Another scenario looks at the possibility of shiftingfreight from road to rail, and electrifying national rail networks.

All of the scenarios call for the transition to a fullyrenewable energy sector, identified as cost-effective and relatively easy todo, because many of our electricity sources are already low carbon.

I'm excited about these options, because the co-benefitswould be significant.

Aucklanders would see more efficient public transport andfreight options, which would in-turn reduce traffic and make savings in timeand fuel. They would also see health benefits, as cars go electric and thestreets become cleaner and quieter. New Zealand's susceptibility to volatileinternational fossil fuel prices would diminish and our energy security wouldgrow.

Technology innovation opportunities

However, none of this can be achieved without thedevelopment of low-emissions technology. And that's another aspect of thisreport that excites me – it starts to identify the opportunities for small,medium and large businesses to develop and innovate low-emission, hi-techsolutions. The report suggests government and research institutions partnerwith small, medium and large companies to find solutions. 

We really need business to start exploring the potential.It's been said that climate change could be the greatest driver of innovationsince World War II. We could miss out if we don't start planning for theopportunities, as well as risks. 

In New Zealand there are already great examples of businessleaders making real investments in climate change solutions.

Christopher Luxon at Air New Zealand and Mike Bennetts at ZEnergy both regularly speak about their business strategies that have climatechange at the core. Z Energy has invested $26 million in the country's firstcommercial-scale biodiesel plant and is rolling out more electric vehiclechargers.

Fraser Whineray at Mercury and Alistair Davis at Toyotapublicly encourage their customers to use low emissions and electric vehicles.

There are a number of actions I'd suggest businesses take ifthey want to help ease rush-hour traffic and save time and money.

  • If practical, offer staff more flexible working hours or the opportunity to work remotely – less time stuck in traffic means more time at work and at home. BNZ offers its staff flexible hours when it can, because it drives a more agile and productive workforce and enables a better work-life balance.
  • You could also review your delivery or freight schedule and see if the business can consolidate deliveries. It'll lower your emissions and save fuel and delivery costs. OfficeMax have a Freight Carbon Emissions Calculator, which they are keen to use with their customers for more efficient delivery options.  Companies like Cityhop also provide electric cars that your staff can rent using a car-sharing app. The scheme would encourage staff to bike or take public transport and reduce traffic at peak times.

The Vivid Report also represents a step change in NewZealand politics. It was commissioned by MPs from across the politicalspectrum, which indicates a willingness to work together on climate change,beyond the electoral cycle.  Businesses need policy stability andpredictability to respond to the challenge of climate change and innovate andinvest. I think this report starts the conversation that will help us getthere.