Last year, Norway became the first country in the world where the sales of electric cars outnumbered those powered by petrol and diesel, accounting for 54 per cent of new car sales in 2020. They are aiming to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, which would make them the first country to do so.

The road to becoming world leaders hasn’t always been smooth for Norway. Just a decade ago, EVs represented just 1 per cent of the market in the small Scandinavian country, but thanks to its simple strategy of abolishing import tariffs and sales taxes on EVs and offering cheaper road tolls and registration fees, its revolution has been fast-tracked.

Meanwhile on our own shores, EV sales accounted for less than 1 per cent of new sales in 2019.

Governments need to drive policies that motivate people to go to a dealership and pick up the keys to an electric vehicle. It’s blatantly obvious, but the Morrison government seems determined to do the opposite.

In its Future Fuels Strategy discussion paper released on Friday, the Morrison government ruled out financial incentives to encourage people to buy electric or hybrid vehicles.

Some of the states are putting the brakes on the EV revolution, too. The South Australian and Victorian governments have announced plans to introduce road user charging for electric vehicles and the New South Wales government is considering introducing a similar scheme.

For anyone concerned about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change, this makes no sense. Australia is already an embarrassing laggard when it comes to transitioning to electric vehicles, and this just puts hurdles in front of the slowest runner.

By contrast, the ACT government is acting right now to rapidly increase the uptake of electric vehicles. In the ACT, electric vehicles can take advantage of our 100 per cent renewable electricity, making them genuinely zero emissions transport. Ultimately, we aim to reduce transport emissions to zero, and all emissions to zero, within the next 25 years.

As more vehicle manufacturers phase out production of fossil fuelled cars it’s the simple reality we need to ready our country for zero emissions vehicles. The ACT is getting on with the job, starting with 50 new electric vehicle charging stations funded in this week’s budget. We’re also commencing a no-interest loan scheme to reduce the up-front financial burden of electric vehicles and mandating electric vehicle charging in new developments.

The ACT government is leading by example and shifting both our fleet of government vehicles and our public transport buses over to electric. We already have 110 electric vehicles in the government fleet and all newly leased passenger vehicles will be zero emissions from now on, making our fleet one of the largest electric vehicle fleets in the country. We have committed to a zero emissions public bus fleet and will be running a procurement later this year to get 90 electric buses into the network.

While ‘Canberra’ (the Federal government) covers its eyes, Canberra (the city) sees what is happening in the rest of the world where the use of electric vehicles is surging due to governments who are actively supporting their rollout. Look at UK, where the government has allocated more than $1 billion in subsidies for EV buyers and charging stations as it attempts to phase out new fossil fuel cars by 2030.

Global leaders are rushing to accelerate their transition to electric vehicles. US President Joe Biden recently announced that the US Government will transition to an all-electric vehicle fleet. General Motors has also committed to an all-electric future, with 30 new electric models to be available by 2025. The global vehicle market is in full transition, but once again Australia seems willing to be left behind.

We need to do everything we can to rapidly reduce emissions and that means an efficient and strategic shift away from vehicles that are powered by fossil fuels.

With true leadership from national, state and territory governments we can make zero emissions vehicles available to all Australians as soon as possible while embracing opportunities for cleaner and smarter industries.

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