Could Australia become a dumping ground for high-emission vehicles?

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The White Paper has left out one obvious policy that could help: mandatory greenhouse emissions standards for all imported new and second-hand vehicles.

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The Conversation

JAPAN ECONOMY CAR EXPORTS

The federal government’s new Energy White Paper puts a lot of emphasis on getting more economic benefit from our energy use. But it has left out one obvious policy that could help: mandatory greenhouse emissions standards for all imported new and second-hand vehicles.

This is a surprising omission, considering that the government’s 2013 Emissions Reduction Fund Green Paper acknowledged that “vehicle emission standards have been implemented with great success in many countries”. Why not here too?

It’s doubly surprising in light of the federal government’s recent pledge to embrace energy efficiency for vehicles. At last year’s G20 Brisbane summit, it developed an Energy Efficiency Action Plan which aims to prioritise improving vehicles emissions standards in G20 countries, by introducing more stringent fuel-efficiency requirements for new vehicles.

The government is also preparing to provide details of how its proposed changes to the Motor Vehicle Standards Act will impact on the existing regulations. If it is to uphold its G20 fuel-efficiency pledge, then it needs to include the introduction of mandatory fuel-efficiency or greenhouse emissions standards for all new passenger and commercial vehicles.

With the domestic automotive industry coming to an end in 2017, now is as good a chance as any.

A long time coming

Curbing vehicle emissions has been on the agenda for a long time. In 2009, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) recommended regulating vehicle carbon dioxide emissions as part of its response to the Henry Tax Review. In 2010, the Labor government’s Prime Minister’s Tax Group on Energy Efficiency also called for motor vehicle emissions standards to be introduced. Other Energy Green and White Papers and related federal government reports have supported the introduction of similar standards, such as the 2014 Emissions Reduction Fund White Paper acknowledged the successful adoption of vehicle emission standards in the European Union and the United States.

Last month’s federal government Issues Paper on setting Australia’s post-2020 emissions target suggested that emissions-reductions policies “…could include fuel efficiency standards for light and heavy vehicles” – although it also added that the government will need to “consult with business and the community” before taking on this policy measure.

Australia lagging behind

What the government also needs to acknowledge is Australia’s poor record on vehicle fuel efficiency in comparison with many other nations. Its planned consultation with business and community should also include a warning that unless Australia introduces proper emissions standards, it risks becoming a dumping ground for high-emissions new and second-hand vehicles.

Australia is one of the remaining three largest markets and the only OECD country without an official fuel efficiency target. According to an energy scorecard for the 16 OECD nations released last year by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Australia ranked 10th overall for energy efficiency, but came last on the fuel economy of passenger vehicles and on the setting of future standards.

Australia’s poor performance in reducing vehicle carbon emissions has contributed to its current ranking as the world’s highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases. What’s more, its failure to introduce regulatory carbon dioxide emission standards has encouraged global car manufacturers to dump and sell their higher-emitting vehicles in Australia.

A dumping ground for high-emissions cars

More than 70% of light vehicles sold in the world last year were subject to mandatory emissions standards. Global car manufacturers are required to meet the regulatory emissions standards in the country of manufacture. For example, manufacturers selling new cars in the European Union must pay a penalty if the average for their fleet exceeds 130g of carbon dioxide per km.

Manufacturers will therefore be encouraged to sell their higher-emission vehicles in countries with no regulatory standards, such as Australia. This explains why multinational manufacturers tend to have higher average emissions in Australia than in Europe.

Emissions from cars produced by major multinational manufacturers are higher in Australia, which does not have mandatory limits.
Author provided

If the federal government is serious about meeting its G20 pledge to improve vehicle energy efficiency and emissions, it needs to introduce emissions standards that will apply to all new and second-hand light vehicles sold in Australia. Without these new standards, there would be very little to stop international manufacturers from sending us their least efficient, most polluting cars.

 

Source: The Conversation. Reproduced with permission.

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9 Comments
  1. Chris Dalitz 5 years ago

    There is an “upside” to freeing up import of second hand vehicles that I noted on a recent visit to New Zealand where a keen minority are importing second hand low km LEAF’s from Japan. This raises the awareness of EV’s and encourages the establishment of public charging infrastructure.

  2. juxx0r 5 years ago

    We’ve been subsidising the purchase of high emissions vehicles for 30 years, taxing imported vehicles with lower emissions, government handouts to holden and ford, tax breaks on 4WD vehicles. The tax and handout structure around vehicles in Australia has been positively poisonous.

    I can’t work out why none of the greenies ever talk about it.

  3. Pedro 5 years ago

    I do not get it. If a car manufacture has to make a car that meets Euro of US emission standards then why sell a less efficient model into the Australian market? Do the manufacturers actually look at their order book and say ‘oh we have 10000 of a particular model going to Australia next month lets put in a crappier motor’?

    On another point there is no incentive for the Australian government to have efficiency standards for cars as they are addicted to the revenue from fuel excise. So if you want to decouple the economy from FF then the government has to be weaned off revenue derived from FF taxes. Here is a thought bubble. Perhaps all the roads need to be toll roads and you pay a fee /km/vehicle weight charge.

    • Peter Thomson 5 years ago

      I suspect Aussies tend to buy cars with the larger size engine options, while European consumers have long been incentivised (by taxation levels) to buy smaller engined vehicles. That may be enough on its own to explain the difference in average CO2 emissions in the table above (would need to spend some time drilling into the stats to understand of this is the case).

      Also Aussie car history has been more influenced by US design practices than European or Japanese; E.G.; the Falcon and Commodore with ~4 litre engines are regarded as a standard family cars in Aus, while in the UK anything over 2 litre becomes extremely expensive to tax and insure, and is regarded a a high-end luxury car. Cars with 5-6L V8’s are only offered in specialist sports vehicles or true luxury cars like Bentleys – never in workaday vehicles like Utes!

      Any Government that legislated against the local car industry with large engines would have been extremely unpopular – so sad though it is to see them go, the demise of these models does open the door for better emissions regulation.

      • Coley 5 years ago

        It’s a bit more complicated in the UK, age and type of vehicle, emissions etc all play a part, usually once you get above 2.5 litres things start to change, insurance is a completely different ball game.
        NZ has by far and away the best system, you pay for the miles you drive, couple that with engine size and vehicle type and you would have a relatively fair system.

  4. CM 5 years ago

    Good point Pedro regarding revenue. Should car remain a source of revenue? If yes, then instead of giving subsidies to buy electric car, the state should own the battery with a private partner and get revenue through renting out batteries, if a fluid is used then tax the fluid.
    One thing is sure, the upcoming FF wean off will bring forward the need for deep reforms that political leaders must be able to sell to the public or bipartisanship.

    • nakedChimp 5 years ago

      They will just increase rego and put in some road use tax as Pedro wrote, as soon as EV’s make 5-10% of the fleet on the road I’m pretty sure they will recognize a drop in revenue that needs to be fixed.
      No need for getting the gov involved in the battery ‘rental’ which most of the time is a fixed part of the car anyway.

  5. DogzOwn 5 years ago

    What’s the betting that Macfarlane will do as little as possible, to cause least offence, disregarding ever increasing uncertainty – downwards, backwards, dirty and cheap!?!

  6. howardpatr 5 years ago

    Think of the poor public servants who had to put the green and white papers together.

    I suspect most would understand and accept the findings of climate scientists but have had to write what Abbott, Hunt, Macfarlane and so many others in the Coalition want who could not give a damn about global warming.

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