The Federal Climate Change Minister, the Hon. Chris Bowen (MP), tabled the Climate Change Authority’s (CCA) 2023 Annual Progress Report in the Australian Parliament yesterday.  This report is the second on Australia’s progress in reducing emissions in accordance with the GHG emission targets (to 2030 and 2050) that were legislated by the Parliament in September 2022.

In tabling the Report, Minister Bowen conceded that Australia’s GHG emissions had increased over the past year and admitted that Australia was “not on track” to achieve its 2030 emission reduction target (of a 43% reduction in annual GHG emissions relative to 2005 levels).

“With policies we have announced, and are in the process of implementing, Australia’s emissions are projected to be 42 per cent below 2005 levels in 2030, compared to 40 per cent in last year’s projections,” Minister Bowen told the Parliament.

“The fact is that our targets are ambitious in that they require a big lift in effort over the next seven years,” Minister Bowen added.

The Minister went on to say that despite the slow progress, Australia was within “striking distance” of the legislated 2030 emissions reduction target.

The 2023 CCA Report provided 42 recommendations to accelerate Australia’s progress towards the achievement of its legislated emission reduction targets. Minister Bowen said that the Albanese Government had agreed-in-principle to 39 of these recommendations, including recommendations to support the “rapid deployment of renewables”.

With the Australian Government preparing to introduce sectoral targets for various Australian Industries (including transport) in the first half of 2024, the CCA Report contained 6 recommendations for reducing GHG emissions from the national vehicle fleet.

These recommendations, which are understood to have been accepted in-principle by the Government, were as follows:

  • Recommendation 20: Implement a Fuel Efficiency Standard for new light vehicles as soon as possible which progressively reduces the emissions intensity to zero by no later than 2040.
  • Recommendation 21: Complete a review of policy and regulatory settings for electric vehicles by 2024 (including subsidies to purchase electric vehicles, fees, and charges to own and drive electric vehicles and taxes and tax concessions) to ensure incentives are effective and efficient in reducing emissions and driving electric vehicle uptake.
  • Recommendation 22: Develop metrics to monitor progress of the rollout of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the first National Electric Vehicle Strategy annual review. This should take account of the infrastructure needs of regional and rural Australia in terms of the number, distribution and speed of chargers.
  • Recommendation 23: Work with the electric vehicle charging industry during the first National Electric Vehicle Strategy annual review to develop policies and if needed, regulation, to ensure that:
    • public electric vehicle chargers report in real time whether chargers are available, and
    • there is a consistent approach to electric vehicle charging formats, including available plug types, payment systems and applications necessary to find and access chargers.
  • Recommendation 24: Consider immediate policy and regulatory options to reduce emissions in existing road vehicles such as by allowing and incentivising lower emissions fuel blends.
  • Recommendation 25: Encourage uptake of lower emissions heavy vehicles by:
    • undertaking a cost benefit analysis for a Fuel Efficiency Standard for heavy vehicles by the end of 2024, to adopt a standard to reduce emissions from heavy vehicles over time, and
    • reviewing regulatory barriers to zero emissions truck uptake and addressing these by the end of 2024.

One of the key recommendations that was rejected by the Albanese Government was the CCA’s recommendation that Australia ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040. In rejecting this recommendation, Minister Bowen stated that it would be “premature” to set a target for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040.

The Minister’s rejection of this recommendation is consistent with developments in other international markets where the UK Government recently delayed that Country’s proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 5 years, from 2030 to 2035. The UK decision followed an earlier decision by the European Parliament in March of this year to permit the sale of new internal combustion vehicles after 2035, provided that these vehicles were operated on low carbon fuels such as e-fuels and renewable fuels.

“If we are genuinely serious about reducing GHG emissions from the national transport fleet then we must move away from ‘picking technology winners’ and instead simultaneously pursue all options to reduce emissions – including: battery electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and modern internal combustion vehicles operated on synthetic and renewable liquid fuels”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

“Within that context, and ACAPMA’s sustained advocacy to all Australian Governments over the past 18 months, the Albanese Government’s response to the CCA’s Second Annual Report is a welcome one”, concluded Mark.