Transition to low emissions, climate resilient transport

Waka Kotahi has a critical role in planning, developing, and operating the land transport system to keep everyone moving. Our transition will require us to change the way we do things over the next 30 years. There are major opportunities to make society more inclusive and equitable, by transitioning to a zero-carbon transport system.

Our climate change action focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to a changing climate and reducing harm to the environment from land transport activities.

Waka Kotahi is directed to deliver on:

  • first emissions reduction plan, released May 2022
  • first national adaptation plan, released August 2022
  • and meet the requirements of the Carbon Neutral Government Programme (CNGP).

Together, these will support the transition of Aotearoa New Zealand to a resilient, productive, sustainable and inclusive economy with a low emissions and climate resilient transport system.

The transport sector needs to support long-term system planning in both emissions reduction and adaptation together. Actions and investment to reduce transport emissions can also be used to support adaptation and increase resilience to climate change impacts.  

The first emissions reduction plan

Transport is a key sector in Aotearoa New Zealand – it is also a significant contributor to our emissions footprint, with almost 17% of greenhouse gas emissions coming from transport.

On 16 May 2022, the government launched Aotearoa New Zealand’s first emissions reduction plan.

The plan sets out the actions needed across every sector of the economy to reduce emissions and achieve New Zealand’s first emissions budget and lays the foundations for greater reductions in the future.

Transport has a significant role to play. The plan calls for a 41% reduction in emissions from the transport sector by 2035 (from 2019 levels).

There are three focus areas for reducing transport emissions:

  • reduce reliance on cars and support people to walk, cycle and use public transport
  • rapidly adopt low-emissions vehicles
  • begin work now to decarbonise heavy transport and freight.

Four targets support these focus areas and align with the goal of a 41% reduction in transport emissions:

Target 1 Reduce total kilometres travelled by the light fleet by 20% by 2035 through improved urban form and providing better travel options, particularly in our largest cities.
Target 2 Increase zero-emissions vehicles to 30% of the light fleet by 2035.
Target 3 Reduce emissions from freight transport by 35% by 2035. This target for freight transport includes emissions from trucks, rail and ships. It excludes light vehicles and aviation.
Target 4 Reduce the emissions intensity of transport fuel by 10% by 2035.

Emissions reduction plan(external link)

Following the release of the Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) and Budget 2022, Waka Kotahi was allocated budget for the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) programme.

Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF) programme

Adapting for resilience

On 3 August 2022, the Government launched Aotearoa New Zealand’s first national adaptation plan. It brings together in one place the Government’s current efforts to help to build climate resilience. It sets out a proposed future work programme, indicating priorities for the next six years.

Urutau, ka taurikura: Kia tū pakari a Aotearoa i ngā huringa āhuarangi
Adapt and thrive: Building a climate resilient New Zealand


Adapt and thrive: Building a climate resilient Aotearoa New Zealand(external link)

Tiro Rangi – our climate adaptation plan 2022–2024 is a critical action in the national adaptation plan.

We published Tiro Rangi in December 2022. This is our Waka Kotahi long-term plan for adapting the land transport system to our changing climate. The plan outlines 21 priority high level actions for implementation over the coming two years to 2024, and a long-term 2050 goal.

It is vital we consider the changing climate and adapt our land transport system. Improving resilience will decrease disruptions to communities and minimise the risk of climate impacts.

The next step is to start implementation planning. This will provide the detail needed to achieve the high-level actions in Tiro Rangi.

Tiro Rangi – our climate adaptation plan 2022–2024

Accelerating emissions reductions in the public sector

The Carbon Neutral Government Programme (CNGP) aims to make a number of government agencies carbon neutral from 2025.

Immediate priorities for Waka Kotahi:

  • Transition our fleet vehicles to electric vehicles or low-emission vehicles when EVs aren’t an option
  • Measure, verify, report and reduce across all our corporate emissions. We are well placed to meet the CNGP requirements for corporate emissions by 2025, guided by Toitū Te Taiao - Our Sustainability Action Plan.
  • Measure and reduce construction (embodied) and operational emissions in infrastructure projects and activities. Measuring and verifying these emissions, along with setting and reporting against reduction targets, will be done in partnership with our suppliers.

Corporate carbon emissions reports(external link)

Our 30-Year Plan

We’ve begun to develop a 30-Year Plan - it will look at how the land transport system will need to change and what Waka Kotahi and its partners will to do in response, both to deliver for the future and on the government’s long-term priorities for the transport system.

There are six key drivers for future change: climate change, demographic change, changing economic structure, funding and financing challenges, customer desire, and technology and data.

Climate change key drivers: 30-Year Plan

The emissions reduction plan, CNGP and the national adaptation plan will work alongside each other, so we are increasing the resilience of our communities and transport system while reducing our emissions.