Why it's time to get moving on decarbonising Australia's transport | RenewEconomy

Why it’s time to get moving on decarbonising Australia’s transport

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One of the simplest ways to reduce transport emissions is converting machines that run on the combustion of fossil fuels to machines that run on green electricity.

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The Driven

I’m a former clean energy guy, so you’ll forgive my hard-to-shake obsession with turbines and panels. But the way people move from one place to another is inextricably linked with the world of electrons.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce emissions from transport (alongside things like walkability, cycling and reduced plane travel) is converting machines that run on the combustion of fossil fuels to machines that run on electricity generated by zero emissions sources like wind and solar.

Sounds simple, right? It isn’t, but it’s definitely urgent. One surprising thing I’ve discovered reading and researching more about this is how deep the well of potential decarbonisation is, and how badly it has been forgotten in Australia. The fruit here hangs lower than I ever realised.

Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) releases annual projections of the trajectory of emissions, and the 2019 release was telling in how it outlined the climate harm set to be caused by Australia’s modes of transport in the coming decade:

Tellingly, there is a stark difference between electricity and transport. Between the 2016 projections and the 2019 projections, electricity emissions have become far more optimistic, because the ‘renewable energy target’ has done most of the heavy lifting in injecting momentum into the replacement of fossil fuels with zero carbon sources:

In transport, there has been almost no change at all:

What’s needed – badly – is a plan to create the RET-effect wthin the transport sector.

What’s the plan?

At the 2019 federal election, both major parties laid out plans for transport. The Labor party detailed a well-reviewed policy to get 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030 and an emissions standard of 105 grams of CO2 per kilometre. The Liberal party had no climate policy for transport; instead opting to attack their opposition.

There were ludicrous memes, outright lies, discredited Youtube videos and a range of weird media pile-ons, all covered here in The Driven. It is worth reading in full, just to get a true, detailed feel for how strange and silly it all was.

Unfortunately, the political party the single-digit age of maturity in its policy platform won that election. As I wrote previously in RenewEconomy, the process since that election has moved from treading water to swimming backwards. As part of the government’s ‘Climate Solutions Package’, an electric vehicle strategy was promised.

Later, it was delayed until “mid 2020”. We’re only weeks away from mid 2020 now, and there’s nothing to be seen, besides a single page document that can be read in a single minute.

The only other sign of life in the Coalition’s ambition to reduce emissions in the transport sector is a discussion paper released in anticipation of an eventual “technology roadmap”, where funding for fossil fuels and hydrogen is presented as an alternative to the setting of climate targets. “Battery, hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles” make it onto a very long shortlist of “priority technologies” in that document.

Whoever wrote that comes incredibly close to understanding how the government has actively discouraged a transition to clean transport when they write “the latest engine and hybrid technologies (energy management technologies and electric vehicles, among others) are not reaching the Australian market in significant volumes”, but fail to explore why.

And to add to the lack of ambition, it says “In the short term, hybrid vehicles and improved components/lightweighting offer the most potential for abatement”, carving out a continued role for fossil fuels even as fully electric replacements have reached commercial maturity.

To read the full story on RenewEconomy’s electric vehicle dedicated site The Driven, click here…

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