updated 10/11/2007 12:03:28 PM ET 2007-10-11T16:03:28

Prime Minister Helen Clark unveiled an ambitious plan Thursday to halve transport greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and generate 90 percent of New Zealand's electricity supply from non-carbon renewable resources by 2025.

Releasing the national "Energy Strategy to 2050," Clark said New Zealand "is uniquely positioned to achieve greater sustainability in the energy sector ... a huge strategic advantage to us."

Transport emissions will be cut by using biofuels, buying more diesel and hybrid vehicles and being one of the first nations to widely use electric-powered vehicles, the strategy said.

Under the energy plan, electric vehicles will gain 5 percent of market share by 2020, rising to 60 percent by 2040.

Hydrogen powered vehicles will make up another 25 percent of car sales by 2050, it added.

The move to low-carbon fuels means that by 2020 some 25 percent of liquid fuels used in transport will be derived from renewable sources, rising to 85 percent by 2050.

Currently, national transport fueled mainly by petrol and diesel, guzzles 44 percent of New Zealand's total energy consumption.

Unless New Zealand changes its energy policies, energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise by 39 percent by 2030 — with 40 percent of the increase coming from transport emissions, the strategy warns.

The government said it plans to have 80 percent of the vehicle fleet capable of using 10 percent biofuel blends or electric power by 2015.

In February, Clark set the ambitious goal of New Zealand becoming the world's first greenhouse gas-neutral state, pledged big emission cuts by the government and set compulsory targets for biofuel use as initial steps.

She likened the threat of climate change to a nuclear holocaust during the Cold War, and said New Zealand must lead the way to combat it.

Energy Minister David Parker said that wind and geothermal generation are the keys to helping New Zealand switch future electricity production away from fossil fuels used in coal and gas electricity plants.

Already 65 percent of the nation's electricity is generated from renewable resources, mainly hydroelectric plants, and he said there should be no need to build more fossil fuel generation for at least a decade.

Parker said power companies already are responding to the government's plans by deferring development of new coal- and gas-powered generation.

Green Party co-leader and government spokeswoman on energy efficiency, Jeanette Fitzsimons, said a new energy efficiency and conservation strategy will see an initial 180,000 houses provided with low-cost insulation, heating upgrades and solar hot water systems.

Businesses also would receive grants to use more efficient machinery and manage greenhouse gas emissions.

Upgrading the fuel economy of new vehicles by 25 percent by 2025 will allow cumulative fuel savings of 1.2 billion gallons and cut carbon emissions by 13 million short tons over the period, she said.

"Energy efficiency is by far the most effective way of reducing climate change gas emissions and making fuel supplies more secure," Fitzsimons said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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