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by Tim Beissmann

Average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from Australia’s new car fleet continue to fall, but the vast difference between our emissions and those of European countries suggests we still have a long way to go to green up our act.

A report by Australia’s National Transport Commission (NTC) reveals average CO2 emissions from new passenger and light commercial vehicles in Australia were 206.6 grams per kilometre. That figure represents a 2.8 per cent reduction from 2010, and an improvement of 18.1 per cent per cent compared with 2002.

But Australia is a long way of the mark set by the countries of the European Union. Emissions from passenger vehicles in Australia in 2011 averaged 198g/km, more than 45 per cent higher than the EU, which averaged 136g/km.

Those figures overlook light commercial vehicle emissions, which in Australia averaged 245g/km last year.

The NTC says there are a number of reasons why Australia’s new vehicle emissions are higher than those of European countries, highlighting the fact that there have been fewer measures introduced in Australia to reduce pollution levels. Strategies employed in Europe include higher petrol taxes, lower comparative diesel taxes, regulations for vehicle CO2 emissions, vehicle excise duties and direct cash incentives for consumers to purchase low CO2-emitting vehicles.

NTC commissioner Frank Muller says Australia’s new vehicle CO2 emissions could have been slashed by 38 per cent last year to 128g/km if consumers purchased vehicles that were the best in their class for emissions.

Of all vehicles sold in Australia last year, 93 per cent belonged to the top 15 manufacturers. Of those, Suzuki had the cleanest fleet, averaging 161g/km CO2, while Nissan’s was the worst at 226g/km.

Australian-made vehicles emit well above the average (230g/km vs 206.6g/km), although the improvement from our three manufacturers was almost 2.5 times that of the industry average (6.9 per cent vs 2.8 per cent).

Toyota has the lowest average (203g/km), with Holden (229g/km) and Ford (253g/km) trailing behind. But Holden and Ford both made significant reductions to their fleets’ emissions last year (12.1 per cent and 4.4 per cent respectively), while Toyota improved less than half a per cent.

Muller says new cars will need to achieve a 10-fold improvement in CO2 emissions by 2050 if transport is to play its part in meeting the government’s target of an 80 per cent emissions reduction by the middle of the century.

“Industry, consumers and governments all have an important role to play in helping Australia reduce its emissions,” he said.

“During 2011 there has been a 2.8 per cent improvement in carbon emitted from new vehicles, with a number of manufacturers working to make their vehicles greener.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to build on this progress by continuing to look at ways to encourage Australians to make greener car choices.”

Passenger cars and light commercial vehicles currently produce around nine per cent of total Australian CO2 emissions.

The Australian government has committed to introducing mandatory carbon standards for new vehicles by 2015 and is currently assessing how these standards might be implemented.




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