The Australian federal government is under increasing pressure to promptly enact new legislation that encourages car manufacturers to produce cleaner vehicles as the country aims to meet its 2030 emissions reduction targets. Advocates from both the automotive industry and environmental groups are urging the adoption of European-style fuel efficiency standards. Such standards would provide consumers with a broader selection of cleaner, more cost-effective cars, especially amidst the ongoing cost-of-living challenges.
Fuel efficiency standards would establish a yearly emissions cap for new cars sold in Australia, incentivizing car to offer low- and zero-emissions vehicles while penalizing those that do not comply. Despite being one of the few OECD countries without such standards, the introduction of these rules could be more than a year away due to delays in releasing the government’s preferred model, originally scheduled for the end of 2023.
Last year, Energy Minister Chris Bowen announced plans to introduce fuel efficiency standards after a “wasted” decade, with an anticipated release of the government’s preferred model by the end of 2023. However, the model’s release has been delayed, with Infrastructure Minister Catherine King suggesting that an exposure draft of the legislation would be ready by the end of the year, aiming for implementation in 2024.
The government cites the complexity of designing a model suitable for Australia’s unique circumstances as a reason for the delay, emphasizing the need to take the necessary time to develop an effective framework. Despite the delays, a spokesperson assured that the work is at an advanced stage, and fuel efficiency standards will be both ambitious and well-designed.
The Climate Council’s head of advocacy, Dr. Jennifer Rayner, expressed concern over the delays, emphasizing the negative impact on Australians, particularly as petrol prices continue to rise. A November poll by the Climate Council indicated that over half of Australians surveyed believed a fuel efficiency standard would save them money, with 49% supporting its introduction.
While the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries acknowledges the importance of finding the right balance in the legislation, they also stress the need for timely action. FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber highlighted the complexity of the legislation, urging the government to consider factors such as potential price hikes and the availability of vehicles like utes and SUVs, which may have fewer low- and zero-emissions options. Weber emphasized the importance of creating ambitious yet achievable standards for the benefit of all Australian consumers.