Australia has not set efficiency standards, despite years of talking, in contrast to China, India, Japan, US and EU
— Cuts to carbon emissions from vehicle efficiency standards have been left out of government projections for meeting Australia’s Paris climate commitments, indicating the policy has been shelved.
The office of the transport minister, Michael McCormack, said the government had not made a decision on “how or when” standards to cut carbon pollution from vehicles might be implemented.
After almost five years of submissions a spokesman said the government “is not going to rush into a regulatory solution” with regards to vehicle emissions.
New data shows Australia’s emissions from transport are soaring and projected to be 82% higher in 2030 than they were in 1990.
Australia lags behind the rest of the world in setting vehicle efficiency standards, with most countries in the OECD adopting policies to reduce emissions and improve the efficiency of cars.
The ministerial forum on vehicle emissions was set up under the Turnbull government in 2015, and stakeholders are frustrated at the lack of progress.
Fact sheets produced by the government that set out how it intends to reach Australia’s emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement suggest any policy on vehicle emissions standards has been abandoned.
In 2015, the government produced a graph indicating it expected to achieve cuts of about 100m tonnes between 2020 and 2030 through vehicle emissions standards.
The government’s latest climate package contains no mention of this, and projects only about 10m tonnes of abatement through an electric vehicle strategy, with no reference to vehicle emissions standards.
The Victorian government asked what progress had been made on vehicle standards at the December meeting of environment ministers, but its questions were dismissed, sources told Guardian Australia.
Environment groups and the automotive lobby have asked for clarity before the election.
The chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Kelly O’Shanassy, said it had hoped for more progress towards cleaning up the “woefully dirty” national car fleet.
“But 18 months of radio silence and the removal of proposed standards from pollution abatement estimates out to 2030 strongly suggests the government now has no intention of establishing them.”
In 2017, interest groups consulted as part of the ministerial forum were sent a model proposing a standard of 105g of carbon dioxide per kilometre for Australian light vehicles, phased in from 2020 to 2025.
The proposal would have brought Australia broadly into line with vehicle standards in the US and was forecast to deliver a net economic benefit of $13.9bn. But it faced opposition from the National party and the automotive lobby, and was painted as a carbon tax on cars.
The independent senator Tim Storer, who chaired a Senate inquiry into electric vehicles last year, said the lack of progress was “embarrassing”, given there was “clear evidence of cost benefit” in bringing in the standards.
Labor’s climate policy, due to be announced soon, is expected to point to a target of 105g of carbon dioxide per kilometre. The Greens have proposed vehicle emissions standards “that lead up to a complete ban on new internal combustion vehicles by 2030”.
The chief executive of the Australian Automobile Association, Michael Bradley, said the industry wanted both sides of politics to make their positions clear, but the AAA remained opposed to the 2017 model.
“We’re supportive of an emissions standard but we’re supportive of one that’s reflective of Australians’ vehicle preferences and our market,” Bradley said.
A spokesman for McCormack said the ministerial forum was exploring ways to encourage the uptake of electric and low emissions vehicles.
“The government has not made a decision on how or when noxious emission or fuel efficiency standards may be implemented,” he said.
“It is interested in developing a sensible framework that places savings for motorists and health benefits for the community front and centre while ensuring that the vehicles that Australians enjoy and love remain in the market.”
He added: “The government is not going to rush into a regulatory solution, especially where it has the potential to increase the up-front costs of motor vehicles for Australians”.
Much of the focus on Australia’s carbon emissions has been on the electricity sector. But climate scientists and environment groups have been calling for more attention to carbon pollution from other industries.
Transport accounts for 18% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second largest source.
Modelling produced by climate scientist Bill Hare for the Australian Conservation Foundation shows emissions from transport are climbing fast and are projected to be 82% higher in 2030 than they were in 1990. Cars represent the largest source of transport emissions and have grown by 25% since 1990.
Nearly 80% of new light duty vehicles sold globally, including in China, Japan, India, UK, the US and the EU, are subject to emission or fuel economy standards, while Australia has failed to implement any policy.
“Australia is almost alone in not having any motor vehicle emissions standards for carbon dioxide and/or vehicle efficiency standards for litres per 100km,” Hare said.
“That means that vehicles in Australia are much more inefficient and more costly to run than in the US or Europe or Japan.”
Sarah Fumei, the project manager for ClimateWorks, said the federal government’s own estimates showed emissions from the transport sector would grow by a further 9% from 2018 to 2030.
She said introducing standards would be “a win-win policy” for the environment and motorists’ hip pockets.
“The Australian government should implement the strongest standard put forward in the 2016 Regulatory Impact Statement, which by 2030 would save motorists $500 a year on fuel and reduce emissions by 12m tonnes,” she said.
“Weaker standards will not achieve the same benefits.”
by Lisa Cox | The Guardian