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Source: Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority

If enough New Zealanders continued to work from home on a regular basis, the country could easily save the same amount of carbon emissions as taking 35,000 cars off the road, according to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.

The analysis has been released to coincide with the launch of a Gen Less advertising campaign today.

EECA has done the sums and found that if a fifth of those who usually travel to work by car chose to work at home at least one day a week, we could avoid 84,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year, which would have come from burning fossil fuels in our cars.

In the same vein, switching work travel to a Zoom meeting has the potential to easily achieve big savings:  business travellers moving between Auckland and Wellington are responsible for 65,000 tonnes of carbon each year, the equivalent of 27,000 cars on the road – if a portion of these chose to connect online instead, significant carbon emissions could be avoided.

Choosing to holiday in New Zealand is another winner: a return trip to Australia can generate nearly a tonne of emissions, the equivalent of driving the length of New Zealand.

For context, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions from energy use were 31.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 2018.  Total greenhouse gas emissions (including those from agriculture, waste and other sources) were 78.9 Mt CO2-e.

“New Zealanders have experienced new ways of working and travelling as a result of the Covid-19 controls which have significant climate benefits, and should be encouraged into the future,” said EECA Chief Executive Andrew Caseley.

“EECA’s Gen Less information campaign encourages New Zealanders to continue to work from home, travel less for business meetings, and holiday in New Zealand.”

“We could capture meaningful carbon benefits straightaway from these no-cost switches, that we have all now been exposed to, and that have been proven to work.”

Changes made for climate change have other benefits such as less congestion, less air pollution, lower costs and greater business productivity, Mr Caseley said.

 “We can be clean and clever about how we tackle climate change, and capture the lifestyle and productivity benefits of smart working and lifestyle choices that reduce our environmental impact.

“Gen Less is about getting more out of life using less energy, and creating less climate harm.” 

Find out more about the campaign


Reduction in vehicle GHG emissions if 20% of people who drive to work stayed at home to work one day a week:

  • 1.9 million people drive to work (75% of 2.5 million employed people, MoT Household Travel Survey and Stats NZ) 
  • Average one way trip by car to work is 10.7 km (MoT Household Travel Survey)
  • Light passenger fleet average fuel consumption is 9.5 litres/100 km (derived from MoT data)
  • Fuel saved 173 million litres petrol – equivalent to 420,000 tonnes CO2e
  • Assuming 20% of these worked from home saves 84,000 tonnes CO2e – equivalent to emissions from 35,000 cars on the road.

Approximately 1.25 million passengers fly from Wellington to Auckland each year:

  • 40% of these are assumed to be business passengers
  • GHG gas emissions from one return trip between Wellington and Auckland is 129 kg CO2e (Air NZ carbon calculator)
  • Business travel between Wellington and Auckland therefore generates 65,000 tonnes per annum
  • This is equivalent to 27,000 cars on the road.

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