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IPW: global emissions warning, New Zealand prioritises resilience, and South Africa’s transport vision

21 March 2023

In this week’s Infrastructure Policy Watch, the IPCC highlights climate inaction, New Zealand focuses on climate resilience, and South Africa looks at transport accessibility.

IPW: global emissions warning, New Zealand prioritises resilience, and South Africa’s transport vision
A new report highlights the growing global emissions challenge, which is leading to more frequent climate-related events like wildfires. Image credit: Shutterstock

World at critical point for mitigating climate change 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) new synthesis report says limiting global warming to 1.5°C is still possible but will be much harder than five years ago.

Only ‘deep, rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions’ in all sectors will suffice.

Global emissions need to be almost halved by 2030 to keep warming to 1.5°C.

The IPCC also said wealthy nations must target reaching net zero emissions as close as possible to 2040, rather than the 2050 deadline most have set. 

However, the pace and scale of change so far and existing climate mitigation plans are insufficient to deliver this transformation.

The report also highlights the ‘widespread adverse impacts’ already caused around the world by climate change. 

It says existing adaptation action falls short of what's needed and must be accelerated in the next decade to close the gap.

Climate resilient development

There are ‘multiple, feasible and effective options’ available now to cut emissions and adapt to climate change. The IPCC says the solution lies in climate resilient development.

This means adaptation measures must be better integrated with actions to reduce emissions in ways that provide wider benefits.

It calls on governments to urgently reduce existing barriers and send clear signals to investors through public funding.

Tried and tested policy measures can deliver deep emissions reductions and climate resilience if they are scaled up and applied more widely.

The ICE’s view

The IPCC’s warnings at a global scale are similar to those being issued to many governments by domestic bodies.

The UK’s Climate Change Committee, National Infrastructure Commission and others have all warned the government that policy gaps and delivery delays are putting its climate goals at risk.

Infrastructure has a key role to play in climate mitigation and adaptation.

The report outlines the actions policy-makers should be accelerating across all sectors, including deployment of low- and zero-emissions technologies and enabling behaviour change.

The IPCC emphasises a key part of the solution lies in effectively sharing ‘technology, know-how and suitable policy measures’ globally.

The ICE is working to ensure best practice in infrastructure systems is shared through our global policy work and Enabling Better Infrastructure programme.

New Zealand scales back transport emissions reduction measures

New Zealand plans to reprioritise some transport investment from emissions reduction measures towards infrastructure resilience and cost-of-living support.

The country’s infrastructure suffered extensive damage following a recent cyclone.

In response, the government has proposed changing the priorities in the next Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport.

Last year, it agreed that emissions reduction should be the ‘overarching focus’ of the next GPS.

However, it now wants to prioritise reconstructing damaged transport links and increasing infrastructure resilience.

This would be significant because the GPS determines how investment from the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) is allocated.

It's reviewed every three years, with the next update due next year.

The new Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, also wants to raise welfare payments to help New Zealanders cope with the rising cost-of-living, which is affecting countries worldwide.

To help fund the increase, the government will cut plans to reduce to driving speed limits, clean car grants and other road transport reforms.

It also indicated Auckland’s new light rail system will be delayed.

The ICE’s view

New Zealand published its first national adaptation plan last year as it faced up to the growing risks from natural disasters such as the recent cyclone.

As the IPCC’s report shows, climate mitigation and climate resilience need to be implemented in synergy to maximise the benefits.

However, the impact of natural disasters, the cost-of-living crisis and spending constraints shows the difficulties many governments face in balancing competing priorities for investment.

New Zealand has a strong strategic framework to guide decision-making, including a long-term national infrastructure strategy.

The government says the new measures do reflect changes to its emissions reductions budgets, but a change in how they'll be achieved.

New Zealand has legislated to achieve net zero, excluding biological methane, by 2050.

Last year, it published its first Emissions Reduction Plan covering the next 15 years.

Its dilemma is also a reminder that governments need to engage the public to develop solutions and emphasise the wider benefits of climate investment.

With a national election due later this year, the ICE will continue to monitor the parties’ priorities and pledges and the implications for New Zealand’s infrastructure systems.

South Africa sets out integrated land transport vision

South Africa has published a new five-year National Land Transport Strategic Framework (NLTSF) for consultation.

The paper says the transport system is currently ‘fragmented, inefficient and not coping well with rapid urbanisation’.

It prioritises making public transport more accessible.

The government wants to ensure 85% of residents in large cities live within 1km walking distance of integrated rapid public transport networks.

It also wants to shift passenger priority from private to public transport across all income groups.

The plan follows the revised white paper on National Transport Policy delivered last year.

The white paper sought to provide a new integrated strategic framework for developing the country’s transport network.

The aim is to align transport planning with South Africa’s strategic goals set out in its National Development Plan 2030.

The ICE’s view

A network that will make transport more accessible and persuade people to switch from their cars is vital for any country’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing.

Given the ambition set out in South Africa’s new strategy, it was no surprise that transport was one of the priority sectors for investment outlined in its recent budget.

However, another recent government report highlighted the systemic challenges impeding infrastructure delivery in South Africa.

Insufficient capacity and inefficient policy frameworks are undermining the country’s ability to create a robust infrastructure pipeline.

The government has diagnosed the problems and set out is vision.

But, alongside resolving South Africa’s ongoing energy crisis, it faces significant challenges in delivering it.

In case you missed it:

Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch.

You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.

  • David McNaught, policy manager at ICE