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Author: Tom Arup
Date: 05 September, 2013

Australia has always had a love affair with cars. But the carbon dioxide emissions produced on our roads are almost unrivalled around the world.

Each car, van and ute in Australia produces on average 199 grams of CO2 per kilometre. All up, light vehicles produce about 10 per cent of total emissions.

Only the United States is worse among major economies, producing 205 grams per kilometre. But tough standards introduced by President Barack Obama will see Australia overtake it in the next year or two. Europe and China have introduced mandatory standards and are well ahead at about 140 and 175 grams, respectively.

Australia has a voluntary code, but heading into the 2010 federal election Labor promised stronger mandatory CO2 emissions standards for new light vehicles by 2015. To date little progress has been made.

In 2011, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese released a paper proposing standards of 190 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2015 and 155 grams by the 2024 as a starting point for talks with industry. If implemented, those standards would still leave Australia lagging behind the rest of the world.

It is believed a regulatory impact analysis for CO2 standards was drafted in March, but it has not been released. A spokeswoman for Mr Albanese said Labor was continuing to work with industry and when the statement is finalised, it will be made public.

On Thursday, the Greens will launch their policy, proposing to bring Australia into line with world-leading European standards by 2023. That would mean emissions from new cars would need to be 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre and 147 grams for light commercial vehicles.

Modelling by think-tank ClimateWorks found setting European-style standards by 2024 would cut light vehicle emissions by 2.3 million tonnes from 2000 levels, a 4.6 per cent reduction. Assuming an increase of $2500 in car prices due to introducing these standards, ClimateWorks found it would take an average driver three years to recover the costs as petrol use would be lower.

The Coalition’s climate action spokesman Greg Hunt has supported emissions standards. He said on Wednesday: ”If elected, we would look at the issue and work with industry on improving standards, noting that we also need to be aware of the potential impact it may have on local production.”

The Climate Institute’s deputy chief executive, Erwin Jackson, accused the government of sitting on its hands as the US, Europe and China implemented new standards. He said the Coalition may need to introduce regulatory measures such as stringent emissions standards for cars, because available evidence suggests its alternative to carbon pricing – the $3.2 billion direct action scheme – would not meet Australia’s emissions targets for 2020.

Read article the Sydney Morning Herald