Australia, along with Russia, remains one of the few countries in OECD without fuel efficiency standard

The federal government is facing pressure to “stop idling” and swiftly introduce new laws that will encourage carmakers to produce cleaner vehicles as Australia eyes its 2030 emissions reduction targets.

Automotive industry bodies and environment advocates say the European-style fuel efficiency standards would offer consumers greater choice of cleaner cars that are cheaper to run amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

fuel efficiency standard will place a yearly cap on the emissions output for new cars sold in the country, incentivising carmakers to supply low- and zero-emissions vehicles and penalise companies that do not.

Australia, along with Russia, remains one of the few countries in the OECD without a standard.

But the introduction of the new rules could still be more than a year away after the federal government failed to release its model last year in line with its original timeline.

The energy minister, Chris Bowen, in April last year announced work to introduce a fuel efficiency standard would begin after a “wasted” decade, with plans to release the federal government’s preferred model by the end of 2023.

The infrastructure minister, Catherine King, similarly said there would be progress over the eight months before the year’s end.

“Our plan is to have an exposure draft of the legislation ready at least by the end of the year,” King said in April. “My preference would be to have it introduced by the end of the year but it is going to depend on how technical or how some of those technical issues are dealt with within my department, and they can take a little bit of time.”

She added the standards would “definitely” start in 2024.

Australia’s “circumstances”, however, have put the brakes on the release of an impact analysis ahead of any draft legislation.

It follows comments Bowen made on Guardian Australia’s Australian Politics podcast in September, describing the work as “complicated”.

“We will have fuel efficiency standards,” he said. “They will be ambitious but they have been complicated to design. Our work is at an advanced stage.”

The Climate Council’s head of advocacy, Dr Jennifer Rayner, said the delays were hurting Australians as petrol prices continued to soar across the country.

The climate change advocacy group released polling in November showing more than half of the 1,150 Australians surveyed felt a fuel efficiency standard would save them money at the bowser.

Almost half of the respondents – 49% – supported plans to introduce the standard while 17% said they would oppose its introduction.

Rayner said Australia could not afford to keep “idling at the starting line”.

“The federal government needs to put the pedal to the metal in delivering what they’ve promised – strong fuel efficiency standards to give drivers more choice of cleaner cars that are cheaper to run,” she said.

“Every day we delay putting a fuel efficiency standard in place, Aussies are missing out on the three-in-one benefits of cheaper costs, cleaner air, and greater choice.”

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said it was more important that the government found the right balance rather than forging ahead.

The FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said it was important the government considered all the complexities to avoid a buyers’ strike brought on by any potential price hikes, which would result in dirtier cars remaining on the roads for longer.

“I think it’s really important that the government takes its time to get this right,” Weber said.

“It’s a complex piece of legislation, and it will be a complex piece of administration, and it’s so vital that the government gets it right for the benefit of Australian consumers.”

Weber said it was important the price and availability of utes and SUVs – vehicles with fewer low- and zero-emissions options – was considered.

“We need something – as we’ve always said – that’s ambitious but achievable, so that all Australian consumers can come along on the journey, not just the top end of town,” he said.

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