Drawdown – how can we apply it in NZ?

truck.pngClean cookstoves (replacing kerosene), improved rice cultivation and protecting tropical forests are clearly not things we can implement within NZ. 

Access to family planning and education for girls are largely in place in our country, and our best role may be donating to those who are working for them in poor countries. Changes in cement making technology are generally beyond the scope of what community activists can achieve. So this blog, following our first one introducing Paul Hawken’s book, is the first in a series looking at which of the 100 most globally effective measures outlined in Drawdown are most relevant to New Zealand – and to community scale action plans.

waitaki.jpgIn most countries the big one is electricity – using less, using it more efficiently, and moving away from coal to renewable fuels. Many NZers think of switching off lights as the place to start to mitigate climate change. But 80% of our electricity already comes from renewables – large scale hydro, wind, geothermal, and both National and Labour led governments have had the goal of increasing that to 90% by 2025. So while saving electricity is still worth doing in New Zealand, it has much lower priority than in Europe.

A very high priority here is transport. It accounts for 40% of our non-farming emissions, and we use it very inefficiently. Drawdown ranks transport solutions relatively lowly because unlike NZ, most countries have vehicle efficiency standards, and lower car use per person. There is a wide range of efficiencies in the NZ car market, given our high use of second hand imports and lack of standards. A family car can typically be anything from 5L/100 km to 12. A proper set of standards like in most other countries could double the efficiency of the light vehicle fleet in some 12 years. If individuals and businesses and community organisations chose carefully when purchasing a vehicle we could do the same.

There is huge scope here for behavioural solutions: ridesharing, biking, rationalising trips, and using what public transport we have.

train.pngIn cities it is possible to live without a car at all, and save enough money to use car share schemes or occasional taxis. For those who can’t live without a car electric vehicles make good use of our ability to generate clean electric power. Their CO2 savings are far more than the 50% stated in Drawdown because the electricity is not coming from coal. This is a good reason to save electricity by using it more efficiently - to provide capacity for the growth in electric vehicles. They are not in themselves a sufficient solution as they still require roads and cause congestion but they are certainly part of the solution.

There is a neat connection here with solar electricity – decentralised photo-voltaics.

Recently panned by a Covec report commissioned by the electricity industry because they didn’t look outside the square, small scale solar is nevertheless the no 10 solution in Drawdown – largely because in other countries it will replace centralised coal generation. With no moving parts to wear out, the investment in the hardware is very long lived so the weak point of PV is the batteries. Where these already exist in an electric vehicle the surplus power when the sun is high can be used to charge the car, and run back into the house in the evening.


Solar electricity and electric vehicles both require high capital outlay (though the return on investment can be good in the right circumstances) but there are many transport decisions we take every day that cost nothing, or even save money. What sort of vehicle to buy for your family, for the small delivery business where you work, for the social service organisation that transports people with disabilities, for the school to take kids on trips. For this important purchase, see www.fuelsaver.govt.nz or https://www.eeca.govt.nz/standards-ratings-and-labels/vehicle-fuel-economy-labels/ The more fuel-efficient the vehicle, the less it will cost to run and the lower its climate impact.

bike.pngThen there are decisions about personal travel, shopping, car pooling, cycling, walking kids to school and a multitude of daily trips that add up to a lot of climate change. And finally, is it necessary to travel so much ? Electronic conferences using technologies like Zoom, family keeping in touch on skype, can keep planes on the ground and cars off the road. The Green Party recently replaced a national conference (flights, cars) with a Zoom virtual conference, linking 155 delegates interactively with no technical problems.

In our view Drawdown undervalues the impact of transport decisions because – apart from a small mention of e-conferencing - it assumes every trip we make now is necessary and some form of transport is required to make it. We can achieve much more on transport if we question whether an annual holiday in Bali or Europe is needed to make us happy – or whether we could reduce our use of international flights.

This started with the intention of covering all the key technologies applicable to NZ. It soon became apparent that would take another book. So we are aiming to do one per week – or maybe fortnight – and cover in some depth. People working on climate action plans might like to start this week with transport solutions – they apply to everyone and every community – and discuss transport solutions and post your experiences on Our Climate Declaration Action Group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/1722206304750171/