The Clean Car Standard

The Clean Car Standard

…who wins and who loses?

The next phase of the Government’s Clean Car programme is underway, encouraging importers to bring in more low and zero emission vehicles or face penalties. The changes follow the first and second phases of the programme, which covers a range of initiatives aimed at tackling the transport sector’s CO2 emission levels and helping to address climate change.

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019 requires CO2 emissions to be reduced to zero by 2050. As transport is responsible for 47% of the domestic CO2 in New Zealand, decarbonising transport is a key focus for achieving this target.

Transport Minister Michael Wood said in a statement the legislation will give New Zealanders greater access to cheaper electric and climate friendly cars. “Climate change is a challenge we cannot postpone and we are proud to support New Zealanders to play their part in keeping our country clean and green”, he said.

Te Mata Peak - Waimarama Rd near Craggy Range vineyard on a clear spring day in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

Starting this January, importers need to meet specific CO2 targets for the vehicles they bring into the country, which will get progressively lower until 2027. Each vehicle will incur a charge or a credit based on its CO2 emissions. The targets are ambitious: moving from 145g to 63g by 2027 for passenger cars. Credits can then be used to offset charges or be transferred to other importers (from June).

“The Clean Car Standard will encourage importers to bring in vehicles with lower emissions, that burn less fuel and will stop New Zealand being the dumping ground for the dirtiest vehicles in the world,” said Wood. Small vehicles will be expected to achieve better results than larger ones, but essentially, it will be difficult to meet the targets without increasing reliance on electric vehicles.

While the Clean Car Standard is aimed directly at car importers, it’s likely to also have a big impact on consumers. For importers who cannot achieve the Standard, it’s expected that they will pass the additional cost onto the purchaser, meaning some vehicles could become significantly more expensive.

The first phase of the Clean Car programme – the Clean Car Discount – was launched in 2021 and was aimed directly at consumers. The scheme rewards buyers of low-emission vehicles and fines those who choose higher-emitting models.

Initially it introduced rebates for new and used electric vehicles as long as they were being registered for the first time, cost less than $80,000 and have a safety rating of three stars or higher. In April last year the Discount scheme was expanded to include all vehicles on sale.

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