Jennifer Rayner, advocacy officer at the Climate Council, said the lack of a fuel or emissions standard for new cars had made Australia a dumping ground for older, dirty models that manufacturers couldn’t sell in other markets.
“These new data are not surprising. The problem we have is that there is no incentive for the big car manufacturers to send cleaner, cheaper and more efficient cars to Australia,” she said.
Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has signaled he could implement a vehicle emissions standard, similar to those in place in most developed countries, to reduce the cost of electric vehicles and increase the number of models available for sale in Australia.
Rayner said Australia should set a standard as stringent as places like the EU – currently 95g/km and set to drop to 43g/km in 2030 – to incentivize manufacturers to send cleaner cars and more electric vehicles here.
Audrey Quicke, a transport researcher at the Australia Institute, a left-wing policy think tank, said that in addition to encouraging the adoption of low- and zero-emission vehicles, subsidies for large high-emission vehicles should to cease.
“The current tax system allows small business owners to write off the costs of new vans and heavy-duty vehicles, encouraging graphic designers and hairstylists to move into one-ton vans,” she said.
“Australia’s vehicle fleet emissions intensity has essentially leveled off at a time when other countries are scrambling to reduce transport emissions and curb catastrophic climate change.”
Quicke said the latest figures from the National Transport Commission were a “warning signal” that tough emissions standards, in line with those in Europe, were needed immediately.
Bowen said the federal government will release a discussion paper on a national electric vehicle strategy later this month. Vehicle emissions standards generally do not prohibit high-emission vehicles, but apply to the average emissions of a range of models sold, encouraging manufacturers to import more low- and zero-emission options.
The Abbott and Turnbull governments both considered higher fuel standards, but never implemented them amid an infighting between parties over climate change policy.
An Australia Institute study published last month argued that motorists would have saved $5.9 billion in fuel if the country had adopted strict fuel efficiency standards in 2015, while cutting 9 million tonnes of fuel. carbon dioxide emissions, which is close to what national airlines produce each year.
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