Vehicle emissions standards will save lives

In general, my views on transport funding and policy are pretty diametrically opposed to the Minister’s.

That’s why it nice to see the Minister of Transport is championing at least one cause we can agree on. He has remained resolute in his determination to improve vehicle emissions standards for used cars entering NZ, despite heavy pressure from the used car industry.

Improving vehicle emissions is a cause that the Greens have been championing for a long time. We were instrumental in bringing in the first vehicle emissions screening programme in NZ in 2006.

This helped to clean up our vehicle fleet by making it possible for cars to fail their WOF due to excessive emissions. The emissions standards for imported vehicles that were introduced in 2003 have also contributed to a progressively cleaner car fleet for New Zealand.

The used car industry are saying that the next increase in emissions standards, which will be introduced in January, 2012, will severely damage their businesses. But a Ministry of Transport report (not online, unfortunately) has found little evidence this is so.

They say that in some cases the new standards may encourage New Zealanders to buy smaller cars. While some New Zealanders genuinely need big cars a lot of urban dwellers don’t.

It’s worth remembering, also, why we need emissions standards. The latest report on air pollution to Auckland Council showed that roughly 730 Aucklanders die prematurely of air pollution every year.

Transport is responsible for 37% of that air pollution or about 270 deaths a year. Air pollution also has other costs, such as exacerbating many pre-existing conditions like asthma. It causes people to take many more sick days off work than they would otherwise need to.

The overall cost to the health sector of air pollution, just in Auckland, is estimated to be $730 million/year.

Such startling statistics show that the Minister is right not to delay the introduction of higher emissions standards for used car imports.  The cost to our health of dirty air is too great.

However, it’s worth noting that the council report also states that improving vehicle emissions is not enough. Ultimately, to improve air quality in our cities, we need to see a decrease in vehicle kilometres travelled per person on our roads.

I think one of the best ways to lower air pollution from transport is to have more compact urban growth in our cities and to invest in giving Kiwis more choice to make trips by train, bus, bike or on foot. What do you think?

51 thoughts on “Vehicle emissions standards will save lives

  1. The reality is though that this is a self-solving problem.

    It is the big countries that cars are manufactured to comply with the emissions legislation of, we’re just small fry. Whatever improvements are made elsewhere we are the beneficiaries of.

    Of course, if old Trabants started appearing here in numbers, then we would have to worry :)

    [and this is a nice piece of thread necromancy]

  2. I was just doing a bit of digging and found it interesting that there has been little to no change or discussion on this in parliament or the media since 2011. Personally, I still think we are a wee way off prioritizing the issue as we still come to grips with hybrid and electric cars being introduced to our fleets. If anyone was wondering about the emissions rating of their vehicles in comparison to others, there’s a handy database at http://rightcar.govt.nz/co2-ratings.html.

  3. prontonz1 – you are looking at this issue in to small a time frame. You are possibly correct that due to the restrictions people are hanging on to there older cars in the relative short term. However the point is that eventually that old car must be upgrade to a compliant model. If the user can’t due to financial reasons (separate discussion by the way, rich poor gap) then they will have to consider other options (not buying, car pooling, public transport, living more locally etc etc). So over time (not right this moment) the emissions from motor vehicles will decrease. And yes prontonz1 in the short immediate term (the cycle of generation of cars) emissions may not decrease in some areas. (short term only)

    Society as a whole is going to face more and more regulation around the way we live including car emissions this is a fact. And yes we will have to pay to live more sustainably. Because of this we will need to look at what are needs and what are wants. We will also have to change the structure of our cites to decrease reliance on inefficient ways of living including driving all over the place.

  4. Not so – the point of emmisions standards is NOT to increase the replacement of older cars but ensure that the future uptake is of lower emmision cars. The policy is designed to lower future emmisions levels, rather than make an immdediate impact.

    However emmisions are still lower than they would have been without the changes because of stricter WOF checks and those who upgraded to post 2003 standard imports. Those who did the latter will find the Jan 2012 changes (the appreciating yen and the fall in Japanese supply from the earthquake) will give them a car with good on-sale value. Whereas those that have not done so now have two choices – buy a post 2003 pre 2012 import off these people at around the same price others paid for it years earlier, or buy a more expensive post 2012 model. Either way the policy will work to reduce emmisions over the medium to long term and that fits best with our apparent Kyoto Accord strategy of a 2020 target for realising gains (and reliance on forestry offsets until then).

  5. Amy says “But then eventually they get rid of the old cars (because they break down or whatever) and they buy new cars, with lower emissions.”

    NZ was doing this BEFORE we had emission standards. Replacement rates slowed down when emission standards were brought in BEFORE the recession.

    Cars are continually replaced. The point is the emission standards restrict imports and SLOW DOWN the replacement rate – when they are supposed to speed it up.

    Many people used to spend $7500 upgrading to a 10 year old fresh import. Now that these have been restricted, they have a choice of
    a/ spending twice that (money they don’t have) for a 7 year old car.
    b/ keeping their old car for longer
    c/ upgrading to 12 or 13 year old car (because the emission rule has caused a shortage in medium age imports, and you now only get a 12 or 13 year old car for the same as you used to pay for a 10 year old fresh used import).

    If then regulations meant people were chosing a/ above, that would improve emissions.

    But most people cannot affort option a/, so choose b/ and c/ – which means emissions are HIGHER than they would be without the regulations.

    That is why the percentage of newer cars that we own has gone down, and cars ten years and older have increased by half a million.

  6. @ PhotoNZ. But the effect of emissions standards in other countries has been that at first, for a few years, people keep ownership of their older cars. But then eventually they get rid of the old cars (because they break down or whatever) and they buy new cars, with lower emissions. so air quality does improve – it just takes a while.

    We have just had a severe recession over the last 3 years which may mean people are hanging onto old cars longer than they usually would.

    Also some people will probably make the choice (if cars do get a few thousand dollars more expensive) simply not to buy a car again. This is the biggest factor in improving air quality – if people simply drive less.

  7. Whether people keep their cars for longer or not – they can only keep using an old car for so long.

    Those who did not replace their pre 2003 car with one pre 2012 now know this will cost them, as now even higher standards will apply from Jan 2012 (as is proposed) for used car imports.

    As to the options available when replacing a pre 2003 car, you have already noted how few post 2003 (pre 2012) standard cars there are (in relation to the more numerous older models), this means only some will be able to take up these options and more will be left considering a move to post 2012 (standard) used cars.

    Whatever the short term impact, the policy is one that will result in lower emmisions around 2020. I would imagine Joyce and Transport are operating in a way to hit the targets for transport under the Kyoto Accord with such a 2020 date in mind.

  8. SPC asks “photonz what about people only being able to delay replacing a used car for so long don’t you understand?”

    You don’t get it. People keep their cars for years longer. FEWER new cars are brought into the country.

    So when they do eventually replace their car, they don’t replace with as new a model as they would have.

    In the intervening years, they’ve been driving a car that’s less fuel efficient, with a highwer emiting exhaust system. When they finally replace their car, they are STILL driving an older car than they would have been.

    The regulations means newer cars have to be imported. Less people can afford them, so they’re imported in lower numbers.

    The limitations on imports have been going for many years now, and we’ve now got more old cars than ever – half a million more. That’s a huge increase – every one pumping out more carbon than a newer car.

    And the percentage of new vehicles with lower emissions in our vehicle fleet has gone DOWN. We used to have 45% of our vehicles less than 10 years old. Now we only have 35% (and that happened BEFORE the recesion – it’s probably worse now)

  9. photonz what about people only being able to delay replacing a used car for so long don’t you understand?

    The proposed policy means fewer post 2003 pre 2012 cars and more post 2012 cars in 2020. That means emmisions will be lower than they would have been in 2020 without the proposed new standard for used car imports.

    So when the forestry offsets decline, this gain in lower transport emmisions and other impacts from the ETS will step up to take up the slack – so we better keep to the Kyoto Accord obligation.

  10. dbuckley, it’s not so much that things will get worse, but that they will not improve immediately, but the government has determined on a longer time frame for realising its Kyoto targets.

    Besides to gain an immediate improvement would be like trying to push a rock uphill – given one factor undermining modernising of the car fleet is a recession, a fall in supply pool of Japanese vehicles because of the earthquake and the dollar mving from 90 to 65 yen since 2007.

  11. SPC says “the outcome of the emmisions policy as it is proposed will be that by around 2020 vehicle emmisions will be significantly less than they are now”

    No – that’s not the outcome because of the policy. That’s the outcome regardless of the policy (in regards to cars).

    The emissions regulations make imported cars more expensive, so we end up driving older less efficient cars.

    It’s astonishing that you think that if we make it more expensive to replace your car, more people will do it, when it’s obvious (and proven in the past) that the opposite happens.

  12. Well no, I realise that I have challenged your focus point and you will persist in trying to frame the issue in that way BUT the outcome of the emmisions policy as it is proposed will be that by around 2020 vehicle emmisions will be significantly less than they are now. And that appears to be the Kyoto Acciord time frame that this policy (consistent with the ETS) is trying to achieve).

    The idea that people with used cars before 2003 will still running them in 2020 etc because they will still be delaying any upgrade, is unlikely to be the case in practice.

  13. SPC – regardless of what our emissions regulations are TRYING to do, what they actually do is make us have OLDER cars with MORE emissions – not NEWER cars with LESS emissions.

    It’s a great example of regulations that have the exact opposite effect of what they are trying to achieve.

  14. Put more simply – the emmisions policy is designed for a longer time frame than immediate results and this suits the balance of our Kyoto strategy (we need the results to kick in as the forestry offsets start to decline).

  15. photonz the point you are missing is that the transport policy will be part of a wider Kyoto Accord programme.

    For now our policy is based on use of forestry offsets, but later realisable gains such as in transport and home heating as well as industrial use are required – ETS policy is related to this time frame.

    Those who have not upgraded since the earlier standard came in will have to get a newer used car sometime – and this is the timeframe in which the transport policy targets fit within our Kyoto Accord strategy. They can choose to buy one of those imported since 2003, buying off another New Zealander or one that meets a new higher standard. Those who purchased an import since 2003 may take an new import at the proposed higher standard.

    Overt time transport emmisions will decline.

    The irony is that other factors – loss of used cars in Joapan with their earthquake and the higher yen have more impact on price than our transport policy on emmisions levels.

  16. insider, targeting a declining heating fuel such as coal is easist (and means also a focus on industry use), targeting open fies in general as well – but wood burners that are cost effective for users and lower in emmisions will be around awhile.

  17. photonz1: And why is that linked to emissions standards? Perhaps it could be equally well explained by the fact that modern cars don’t need replacing as often as they used to, thus the fleet over time will necessarily be older on average?

    When folk wish to update their car they *may* need to pay more with this efficiency regulation on imported cars, and they may not – this is currently an unknown, and even if it does go up it will certainly be of finite duration (as all newer imports would pass the standards). If they wish to update their car to one that’s newer and already in the country then they can – there just may not be quite the same range available.

  18. Put it this way.

    Emission standards are supposed to make us
    – buy MORE newer cars, with fewer emissions.
    – have FEWER old cars.

    But the opposite has actually happened
    – the percentage of newer cars (less than ten years) has gone down.
    – older cars (ten years and older) have gone up by massively by half a million

  19. “well the financial cost falls on all emmitters, not just some of them and in the price of new cars most of all.”

    Yup, but some can afford that without making lifestyle changes, some can’t.

    “We have a lot of cars per head on a world scale, and so far I have seen no trend indicating that cost has changed that.”

    Probably because our society is organised to make them necessary. Increased cost may not change the number of cars per head – just polarize ownership – more families have no access to a car, more have several.

  20. @ spc

    Why do you think they won’t focus on woodburners? THat’s what had been happening in Chch. A major programme to either shift fuel sources or to fit efficient burners by banning use of existing non compliant open fires/burners. (PS I suspect home coal use is very low these days so not worth targeting specifically – but open to challenge on that.)

  21. SPC – With or without emission standards on imports, the NZ vehicle fleet gradually gets replaced with newer cars.

    The point you are still missing, is with emission standards on imports, there is a lack of mid range and cheaper cars, so replacement with newer more efficient cars slows down.

    The tighter the standards have become, the older cars we have.

    Without emmission standards, more people were replacing their cars with newer models. They may not have been up to the latest emmission standards now required – but they were a lot better than what they were replacing.

    And that was a lot better than what is happening now – we simply keep driving our old cars for much longer.

  22. Sam, well the financial cost falls on all emmitters, not just some of them and in the price of new cars most of all.

    And as for the extra cost of the higher standard car having an impact on access to the use of cars – and thus an impost on the poor. I could respond that the truly poor do not even have a car and thus their environment improves at no cost to them at all.

    We have a lot of cars per head on a world scale, and so far I have seen no trend indicating that cost has changed that.

  23. insider, I doubt if people will be asked to replace wood burners.

    Auckland is now focused on this issue and the first position will likely be on coal use – will this by by dictate and if for homes, why not also for other users in industry?

  24. “Effectively the cost of the higher standards falling on emmiters/users.”

    Which is what I said – it will cost more to run cars, so the wealthy get to continue to use them, the poor don’t. Once again, the Greens propose that any sacrifices made in order to improve the environment will be made by the poor.

  25. Few fail the warrant tests because they can be retuned etc and then pass them – then operating at the emmisions standards required.

    Again I will note that old cars have to eventually be replaced and when they are at the (even) higher emmisions standards – so eventually past decisions to hold onto the cars will result in lower future emmisions.

    This fits in with a Kyoto Accord management policy based on reliance on forestry offsets in the short term and medium terms gains such as in transport.

  26. @spc

    Of all three you can eliminate the home heating source most easily. Coal and wood can be replaced by gas and electricity, almost eliminating the pollution. Particulates attributed to that source dropped 22% due to switching according the council paper. Switching cars will not have anywhere near that effect as the fuel source is constant, leaving incremental efficiency gains and emission controls.

  27. SPC – again you’re placing far too much importance on the WOF emmission standards – which are not hugely significant. I beleive only a very very small number of cars ever fail them.

    This is about the three million other cars.

    The new emmission standards are about vehicles IMPORTED to NZ.

    If we can only import late model cars, there becomes a lack of medium aged cars, and people hold onto their old cars – which have higher emissions than the medium and newer vehicles
    -a/ because of their older exhaust technology
    -b/ because their design are generally a less fuel efficient, and
    -c/ becuase they are more worn out

  28. The older fleet is only able to stay above the 2006 minimum standard for emmisions for so long and or only able to remain reliably roadworthy for so long before having to be replaced to the new standard .. so in the medium term the vehicle fleet is going to produce less emmisions per vehicle.

    Our general Kyoto Accord approach is to use forestry offsets in the short term and make progress over the medium term.

  29. Sam, I am not an expert on cars, but generally improved maitenance is required to keep vehicles above the 2006 minimum standard, sometimes repairs and modifications.

    It’s probable that at some point these standards will be raised again – probably as part of some Kyoto Accord target for reduced emmisions for transport. Effectively the cost of the higher standards falling on emmiters/users.

  30. SPC says “…higher cost was going to happen in any case – and demand for replacing cars falls in a recession.”

    Even more reason to make used imports as CHEAP as possible – instead of making them even dearer.

    The dearer they are, the older the vehicle fleet, the higher the emmissions.

  31. “Sam, I don’t agree those buying new cars pay for the higher standard lower emmission car thus pay more, where the poor remain with an older car for longer”

    Possibly true – I’m assuming that restricting imports of cheap cars will raise prices overall. But it could just mean older cars devalue faster, I don’t really know how the market will work.

    Could some petrol head tell me if emissions change much over the life of a car? Do cars have increased emissions as they age, or is it just a matter of the date of manufacture?

    Certainly if you press for higher emission standards on WOFs costs will rise.

  32. No not really (I should have said the 2006 standard) , the two measures are both part of the same policy to reduce emmisions levels, you are right that there will be more older vehicles on the road – but while these vehicles will not be as clean in theri emmisions, they cannot become “smokey” without failing the warrant standard required since 2006.

    The government plans to introduce mandatory emissions screening from 2006, covering the 2.8 million vehicles already operating in New Zealand, as well as the estimated 170,000 used imported vehicles that enter New Zealand each year.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0408/S00329.htm

  33. SPC – I think you’re talking about something different. You’re talking about emmission standards for WOFs.

    I’m talking about emmission standards that restrict used imports to only very late models.

    The lack of medium aged cheap cars being imported means fewer people upgrade, and the countrys fleet as a whole has older smokier vehicles.

  34. photonz, the minimum emmisions standard introduced in 2003 prevents older cars remaining on the road if they are not maintained well – “smokey” cars would not get a warrant.

    Of course there are more older cars now, but those older cars still have to meet minimum standards – 2003 standard.

    At some point this minimum standard can also be increased.

    I would suggest one reason for the Ministry of Transport position is Kyoto Accord targets for transport.

    PS 1. The appropriate comparison is not older cars to new cars, there are used cars newer than the standard to factor in too.

    PS 2. One of the used vehicle industry reps admitted there would be less emmisions resulting from this policy, he just challenged whether the marginal gain was worth the cost.

    Vinsen

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/business/5556883/Hazards-ahead-say-car-dealers

  35. Sam, I don’t agree those buying new cars pay for the higher standard lower emmission car thus pay more, where the poor remain with an older car for longer. There is no evidence of less use of cars by the poor.

    Though that could come if minimum standards werre to impact on those with older cars.

    There has been the emmisions standards introduced in 2003 to ensure that older cars are well maintained or else do not get a warrant.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0408/S00329.htm

  36. Is there a priority target, given none of the three causes can be eliminated, reducing all three is the only way to realise effective impact.

  37. SPC says “It only takes a few years for the used car market to return to as it was in terms of pricing, not until the older cars are near their use expiry as some seem to be suggesting. That is why the impact on replacing cars is short term and in the medium term emmsisions decline.”

    Wrong – we now have “bulges” of higher numbers of cars still on the roads made in the year immediately before higher emmission standards, and LESS cars from the years with hgiher emmission standards.

    We also have far more older cars overall (half a million MORE cars ten years old or more), but no increase in cars less than ten years old.

    We used to have 1.5 old (tens years plus) cars for every new (less than ten years) car.

    We now have 2 old cars for every new car.

    All the emmision rules do is make cars more expensive, and keep older smokey cars on the road ofr years longer – it’s a lose – lose – lose situation.

    Bad for those who can’t afford expensive cars, and bad for the environment, and bad for health.

  38. @spc

    but 49% of PM10 comes from biomass ie home fires, and it contributes most heavily on high pollution days. And it’s 60 to 90% of PM2.5. I’d say that makes it the priority target as changing vehicles will likely have a more limited effect.

  39. It only takes a few years for the used car market to return to as it was in terms of pricing, not until the older cars are near their use expiry as some seem to be suggesting. That is why the impact on replacing cars is short term and in the medium term emmsisions decline.

    This evidence from past changes will have influenced the Transport Ministry.

  40. insider, 37% of the pollution comes from car emmisions – the three causes have to be taken on in tandem rather than either just one or two.

  41. If people are driving older cars, won’t that make them less safe in an accident? Once again, Green policy kills.

  42. Kerry says “The law of unintended consequences.”

    I’ve got a brother-in-law in treasury, and he reckons there isn’t a law or regulation passed that doesn’t have at least some unintended negative consequences.

    But I thought in this case it is pretty obvious that if you make newer cars more expensive, people will hold onto more older cars, and buy fewer higher priced (low emmission) cars.

  43. “one of the best ways to lower air pollution from transport is to have more compact urban growth in our cities and to invest in giving Kiwis more choice to make trips by train, bus, bike or on foot.”

    I seems ‘compact urban’ living actually has quite a high carbon footprint. But the best way to lower air pollution from transport is not to offer transport choices, but to provide local jobs and services so people don’t have to travel.

    When I was a kid, I could walk to a local hardware, butcher, chemist, doctor, post office etc. Now I have to travel 10km or so for these services, which is a waste of time, as well as money and energy.

    “The effect of policies on imports makes imported used cars more expensive, so people hold on to old clunkers for longer.”

    Given the environmental cost of building a new car, is this such a bad thing?

    It’s certainly true that pushing up the price of cars means that some people won’t be able to drive. Once again, the Greens come up with a policy that says the poor have to reduce their environmental footprint, while the rich can do as they please.

  44. For once I agree with Photo. The effect of policies on imports makes imported used cars more expensive, so people hold on to old clunkers for longer.

    The law of unintended consequences. OR why policies effects should be researched before implementation and monitored afterwards.

  45. SPC says “photonz, any delay in the purchase of a newer used car is only temporary, so your’re wrong again. Don’t confuse the short term impact with the longer term outcome.”

    Wrong. When imports are restricted and prices go up, people drive older cars that they otherwise would.

    With more restrictions, the average age of the whole fleet has got older and older. It’s supposed to make us drive newer cars, but it has the opposite effect.

    Ten years ago, just over half the vehicle fleet was over ten years old. Now two thirds are over ten years old

    i.e. We had 1.5m old vehicles, now have 2m old vehicles, but numbers of new vehicles has NOT gone up.

  46. Garethe says that “The emissions standards for imported vehicles that were introduced in 2003 have also contributed to a progressively cleaner car fleet for New Zealand” but omits the stacks of junked ‘inefficient’ cars, as well as the maintence costs (in terms of time, money and waste materials) of newer modern engines.

  47. photonz, any delay in the purchase of a newer used car is only temporary, so your’re wrong again. Don’t confuse the short term impact with the longer term outcome.

  48. So they are saying that the air in Auckland is so terrible that about 10% of deaths in the city are prematurely caused by air pollution. Does anyone outside the council actually believe that to be true? I suspect the startling statistics are more designed to be startling than reflect reality.

    Anyway, cars are not the main problem, it’s winter heating. More bureaucratically imposed cost with little benefit.

  49. Gareth says “Vehicle emissions standards will save lives”

    Sorry Gareth – you’re wrong again.

    The new regulations will make used imports substantially more expensive.

    And that has one effect – fewer people replace their cars for newer ones.

    As such, we have an older, less efficient vehicle fleet.

    Someone who can afford $7500 on a used import isn’t suddenly going to spend twice that just beciase you change some regulations.

    Each time new vehicle standards have come in and increased the price of used imports, the average age of our vehicle fleet has gone UP, having the opposite effect of what was intended.

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