Driving and climate change

There is widespread agreement that the Earth’s climate is warming up. There is also a strong consensus that human activity is highly likely to be contributing to and causing much of this warming.

Persistent human activities like driving cars, farming and burning coal produce greenhouse gases. These gases gather in the atmosphere, wrap around the earth and trap the sun's heat.

The more greenhouse gases produced, the faster the world's climate heats up.

Transport and the burning of fossil fuels is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Modern vehicles are becoming cleaner, greener and more fuel efficient as engine technology improves. Increasing the number of hybrid and electric vehicles will also contribute to a more environmentally-friendly fleet.

AA speaking up for motorists

Motorists to make a positive and proportionate contribution

The AA recognises that motorists can contribute to combatting climate change

AA Members are keen to minimise their emissions. However, AA research hasfound that Members do not generally support initiatives that significantly restrict their freedom of mobility or dramatically increase the cost of motoring.

Did you know?

  • Around 50% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture. This is significantly higher than many other OECD nations 
  • Emissions from the transport sector make up around 20 percent of New Zealand’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions 
  • New Zealand emits around 0.2% of global emissions 
  • New Zealand’s 3.1 million cars and vans (as of 2013) are collectively responsible for an estimated 12 percent of our total annual greenhouse gas emissions 
  • New Zealand’s 120,000 heavy vehicles are responsible for 8% of our total annual greenhouse gas emissions 
  • Around 79% of trips in New Zealand are undertaken by car drivers or passengers; 17% by pedestrians; 3% by bus/train or ferry; 1% by bicycle 
  • The average New Zealand car or van travels around 12,000km per year. This compares to 19,000km in UK, 16,000km in Germany and 14,000km in Australia
  • In 2013, a total of 75% of our electricity generation came from renewable sources. This is the fourth highest in the OECD

AA supports practical and affordable emission reducing actions

The AA strongly supports evidence based, practical and affordable measures to conserve energy and reduce emissions. These include:

  • Public transport that delivers services people will use and at a cost proportionate to the benefit. Public transport at peak times has much lower carbon emissions per passenger kilometre than car transport. However, a balance is needed as, when buses run empty off-peak, they have four to five times worse emissions than cars 
  • Actions that promote walking and safe cycling 
  • Safe, cost-effective, appropriate sized electric vehicles. Electric motors are more efficient on lighter vehicles 
  • Investment in road and transport solutions that reduce congestion and subsequently lower emissions 
  • Cost effective and sustainable alternative fuels including biofuels

The AA encourages motorists to:

  • Consider, when buying a vehicle, purchasing the safest and most fuel efficient one you can afford 
  • Adopt a fuel efficient driving style, reducing the energy intensity of driving styles (gentler acceleration and braking) can reduce emissions by up to 20% 
  • Drive to the conditions and within the speed limit. Excess speed increases the amount of emissions our vehicles produce 
  • Consider substituting some car trips with walking, cycling and public transport 
  • Car pool where practical 
  • Combine trips where possible 
  • Service your car regularly 
  • Ensure your tyres are correctly inflated. AA tests have found simply maintaining correct tyre inflation can reduce carbon emissions by up to four percent. Low rolling resistance tyres can further improve this by up to seven percent

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