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Clean sweep: How new emissions plan will save milllions of dollars and thousands of lives

Fewer Australians will die pollution-related deaths under a proposal that will align the nation with most other major economies, a doctor says.

Feb 05, 2024, updated Feb 05, 2024
Queensland's worst traffic black spot, Gympie Road, Chermside. (file image)

Queensland's worst traffic black spot, Gympie Road, Chermside. (file image)

Fuel efficiency standards unveiled at the weekend are expected to save new car owners about $1000 a year from 2028 and end Australia’s reputation as a dumping ground for dirty cars.

Under the new rules due to mimic those in the United States, the car industry will need to balance sales of dirtier, fuel-hungry cars against low or zero-emission vehicles, or face fines.

But the government’s preferred model, which faces further consultation ahead of a proposed 2025 start date, would also save lives, paediatric neurologist and independent MP Monique Ryan said.

“Many medical conditions result directly or indirectly from vehicle pollution, including heart disease, cancer, strokes (and) premature births,” she said.

“Doctors have estimated pollution kills more than 11,000 Australians a year – which is six times the road death toll.

“These standards are a significant public health victory.”

The proposal sets Australia on an ambitious course to slice total new passenger vehicle emissions by 60 per cent by 2028.

That’s part of an effort to catch up to the US standards, which were first introduced in the 1970s.

Transport Minister Catherine King says there is currently no incentive for manufacturers to make sure Australia’s car market is prioritised in order of efficient vehicles.

“China has standards, Japan has standards, News Zealand, the US, the EU,” she told ABC radio.

“We’re one of the few countries that doesn’t alongside Russia and our market is not prioritised for those most efficient vehicles.”

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Cross bench senator David Pocock said there was scope for the government to consider reaching the US standards earlier than 2028, suggesting the local scheme begin in July.

“Anything less ambitious than what is being proposed will increase the cost of transport and do further damage to our climate,” the ACT senator said.

The NRMA, which backs Australia following the US scheme, says the nation can’t continue down the path of voluntary targets.

While underlining a shared commitment to reducing emissions, manufacturers highlighted differences to the US scheme.

“The targets in that country are supported by significant financial incentives yet the discussion paper makes no reference to any additional incentives to support the uptake of low-emission vehicles,” Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber said.

If legislated, the standards are expected to benefit all new car buyers.

The average saving from 2028 is estimated at $1000 per vehicle annually and $17,000 over the life of the vehicle, the government discussion paper says.

Regional and rural drivers could save up to twice that due to longer distances travelled.

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