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Time to rethink your SUV? Australia’s cars among the dirtiest, new report warns

Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 2018
Australia’s car emissions are dirtier than those of Europe and the US, with experts pointing to Australians’ love of SUVs. In Australia, cars last year had a carbon emissions intensity of 171.5 grams per kilometre – 45 per cent higher than Europe (118.5gm/km), a new National Transport Commission report warns. This was also higher than the US, according to a separate analysis by an independent nonprofit, International Council on Clean Transportation, which set the measure for vehicle efficiency at 141g/km.

Australians’ penchant for heavier vehicles such as SUVs, utes and vans was driving up the country’s car emissions, the National Transport Commission report found.

Higher fuel taxes and cash incentives for those buying low-emission cars were encouraging European consumers to buy smaller and more efficient vehicles, found the report comparing the Australian and EU markets.

Young SUV-owner Munashe Chitima is one of many with a soft spot for the gas-guzzling car.

“I can have a flexible lifestyle – I’m not limited in size or storage, so if I want to go camping, I can go camping, if I want to travel across the country, I can travel,” Mr Chitima said.

The sales consultant said he couldn’t afford an electric car.

“The emissions are something that I worry about, but at the end of the day I’m not buying a Tesla anytime soon.”

Of last year’s best-selling car makes, Holden cars produce the highest emissions, at 219g/km, while Audi cars had the lowest emissions, at 145 g/km, the Commission’s report found.

There was a reduction of just a 0.3 per cent on vehicle emissions last year – the lowest drop since records started in 2002.

It comes as the Turnbull Government has been accused of stalling on legislating tougher vehicle emissions standards, with the country about six years behind Europe.

The Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions was established in 2015 to come up with tougher rules, but they have not yet been set.

The most ambitious vehicle emissions target put forward by the forum would reduce emissions to 105g/km in 2025.

The proposed new target in Australia would bring the country in line with the US (although standards are poised to soften under Trump), but would still trail more stringent standards in Europe.

The target is designed to force car companies to sell more fuel efficient cars in Australia to avoid paying the penalty.

Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher said the government had “not reached a position” on car fuel efficiency.

“We will take the necessary time to get this right. Any decision will place savings for Australians front and centre.”

Federal Labor’s climate spokesman Mark Butler said the government was “sitting” on a 2014 Climate Change Authority report that recommended the vehicle emissions standards.

“During this time car companies have been able to sell vehicles in Australia that are too dirty to legally sell in U.S., Canada, UK, Europe, Japan and elsewhere.”

Greens’ transport spokeswoman Janet Rice said 80 per cent of the world’s car market had emissions targets, which meant that Australia had become a “dumping ground for the world’s dirtiest vehicles”.

She countered claims from the car industry that tough targets would make cars more expensive, arguing that motorists would save money on fuel.