With our big red land and hundreds of thousands of kilometres of road, we’re a country moved by car. Our enormous landscape is unique. When we look to regions like Europe where the likes of high speed rail have been mastered, it’s sometimes hard to see how we can emulate what they’re doing so well and enact positive change on our roads.
Country of the car
Australia’s emissions from transport primarily come from the fossil fuels combusted in motor vehicles, even though the sector spans road, rail, aviation and shipping(1). So it’s you, me and every other Jane and John Doe driving around that is a major contributor to our greenhouse emissions. While we can be conscious of reducing car use, increasing public transport links and looking to services like rail to improve our emissions, there are also initiatives that can be taken to improve the efficiency of our road passenger transport.
Knowing that our Australia’s per capita transport emissions are higher than most other countries, and that it’s unrealistic to cut the car out of the picture completely, the focus needs to be on how we can reduce emissions in other ways. From 1990-2012, transport emissions increased by 50 per cent, completely outpacing any improvements in fuel efficiency. Without major policy action, transport emissions are projected to continue to increase as growth outpaces efficiency improvements.
What do we need?
Australia has been slow on the uptake of electric cars and that needs to change. According to Nissan Australia, they’ve delayed the rolling out their much-anticipated new LEAF EV because of poor demand.
Is the demand not there because we Australians don’t care? Because the price points are too high (between $39,000 - $150,000 per car)? Or because, like with many new technologies and industries, we need a little help from our friends high up in driving demand and uptake.
Lack of government direction and support means Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in the EV transition. Australia has only 7,000 EVs on the roads(2) and only 5 EV models to choose from. There are also fewer than 800 EV charging stations across the country - so driving those hundreds of thousands of Ks seems a little out of reach.
In February the Coalition released a general EV policy which pushed policy details back to 2020. In early April, Labor Leader Bill Shorten also proposed tax breaks to ensure 50 per cent of Australia’s cars will be electric by 2030. So it seems like delays from the Libs and lofty promises from Labor, but what we really need is clear policy and action.
Shifts to decarbonise our economy and energy markets are urgent. To do so, we need top down direction and support. Incentives for green transport could be achieved in several ways:
Reducing costs: Reducing registration, borrowing(finance) and on road costs for those purchasing and using EV cars. With not that many EV options available in our local market, removing the Luxury Car Tax on any imports for any electric vehicles could also help increase access.
Prioritising green: Prioritising electric vehicles ahead of fuel guzzlers through initiatives like priority driving lanes and supporting infrastructure development for more charging stations.
Credits: Many countries are already offering tax credits and rebates for EV purchases. In Australia, this could include cash rebates for those purchasing electric vehicles, as well as tax reductions.
Uptake at the industry level: There are lots of cars that make up government and business transport fleets, and they pose a great opportunity for larger group shifts away from traditional vehicles to electric. Providing incentives to business in their procurement decisions on transport could also drive uptake of more efficient vehicle use.
Australia’s uniqueness as a huge land mass, small population per square kilometre and our distance from other markets means that we need our government to push for positive change and equip our population to be able to make future focused choices. As much as we may like to, we can’t do it on our own, and need our leaders to take a stand and drive innovation and efficiency.
Get behind Koskela’s #istandfortheplanet campaign!
As we know, our current political system is now poll driven and responsive rather than proactive. So, we have a really simple way you can help: jump on social media and take a stand for the planet!
Instructions for directing your social media post to Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten.
Instructions for directing your social media post to your local electorate candidates.