Call for vehicle emission standards following slow rate of improvement in new cars

A recent report by the National Transport Commission showing the rate of improvement of new vehicles has slowed, has led to renewed calls for the Federal Government to introduce best practice vehicle emissions standards.

ClimateWorks Australia, Head of Implementation, Scott Ferraro said the fuel efficiency of Australian cars was not improving fast enough and already lagged behind improvement rates of new cars in Europe and the United States.

“The improvement in fuel efficiency of new cars in Australia has dropped to its lowest rate over the last 10 years, with improvement of only 1.1 per cent achieved in 2016 compared to an improvement rate of 4.2 per cent in 2006 and 3.7 per cent in 2012,” he said.

“The national average carbon emissions intensity from new passenger and light commercial vehicles is down to 182g/km in 2016, which is only a slight improvement from 184g/km in 2015.

“Australia is currently well behind the European Union in terms of performance, with their 2016 average emissions intensity for passenger vehicles of 118gCO2/km, and they have a target to get to 95gCO2/km by 2021.  Even the US market is targeting approximately 105gCO2/km by 2025, which is over a 4 per cent annual improvement.

International experience has demonstrated that the most effective way to ensure that higher efficiency gains are made is to introduce light vehicle CO2 emissions standards.  Such standards exist in over 80 per cent of the global vehicle market, and provide the mechanism to drive fuel efficiency improvement.  Without such regulation in place in Australia these efficiency gains are not being realised.”

Mr Ferraro said the NTC report also showed that new cars purchased by government and business buyers have higher average emissions intensities than private buyers and more could be done to bring these fleets in line with the national average.

“The report found the Government fleet had a fuel efficiency rate of 201g/km and business cars were slightly lower at 187g/km.   This means there is great opportunity for fleet managers to invest in low emissions and electric vehicles to play a leadership role.  A recent example is AGL’s announcement of a 10 per cent electric vehicle target for their own fleet.”

Mr Ferraro said the introduction of best practice vehicle emissions standards in Australia would provide significant benefits for consumers while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring Australia kept pace with the rest of the world.

“The Federal Government is currently considering the introduction of CO2 emissions standards through the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions.  A range of stakeholders have expressed support for the introduction of standards including the Business Council of Australia, AGL, health groups, Bosch and a range of state and local governments,” he said.

“Some groups argue that fuel quality in Australia is not of a significant level to allow for the advanced technology needed to meet the fuel efficiency gains proposed by the Government.  However, the International Council on Clean Technology has stated that ‘the present fuel quality in Australia is not a hindrance to lowering CO2 emissions from new light vehicles’

“International experience also shows that the introduction of standards should be accompanied by the introduction of complementary measures to help drive demand for low emission vehicles.  This includes consumer education programs as well as upfront and tax incentives for low and zero emission vehicles.”


Media Contact: Aileen Muldoon 0419 112 503

* ClimateWorks Australia is an expert, independent adviser, committed to helping Australia transition to net zero emissions by 2050. It was co-founded through a partnership between The Myer Foundation and Monash University and works within the Monash Sustainable Development Institute.