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Australian fuel efficiency reform takes next step

Pipe dream: Australian governments are mulling tight new rules for vehicle CO2 standards.

Transport minister wants ‘real gains’ as mandatory CO2 target moves to COAG

26 May 2009

MANDATORY fuel efficiency and emission standards for new vehicles sold in Australia have received a boost after the federal transport minister Anthony Albanese last week supported the move – on the proviso that it demonstrated a “net public benefit”.

Two days after the US government announced far-reaching new fuel economy reform, which in turn prompted calls for similar action in Australia, Mr Albanese met with his state and territory counterparts last Friday (May 22) on the Australian Transport Council (ATC) to consider the final report and recommendations – including mandatory CO2 emission standards for new light vehicles – from the ministerial Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Working Group.

The working group includes members from the ATC and the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC), and follows the release of a public consultation paper in September last year.

While it remains unclear if transport ministers from car-producing states, namely Victoria and South Australia, supported the recommendations, Mr Albanese said after the meeting in Cairns that the ATC had agreed to forward the final report to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) for consideration in July.

“Mandatory emission standards will be considered for introduction if a regulatory impact assessment – involving a rigorous assessment and consultation process – demonstrates a net public benefit of doing so,” the minister said in a statement.

He also told Fairfax Media: “My view is we need to achieve real gains in this area. The need to achieve change is not optional.”

 center image Left: Federal transport minister Anthony Albanese.

The final report was also considered last Friday by the federal environment minister Peter Garrett and his state and territory counterparts at an EPHC meeting in Hobart. It, too, referred to the report to COAG.

In its communiqué, the EPHC said: “Council noted a package of measures that have the potential to significantly improve the fuel efficiency of the Australian road transport sector.” It specifically referred to the recommendation to consider introducing a mandatory CO2 emissions target for new light vehicles, but, like the ATC, it did not shed light on the degree of support among its members.

Other measures mentioned in the report include differing duties and charges for vehicles based on their fuel efficiency rating, and improving consumer information.

Currently, the car industry has a voluntary CO2 emissions target of 222g/km for passenger cars, SUVs and light-commercial vehicles combined, which, according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, should be achieved during 2010.

All new vehicles also carry a sticker with its CO2 emissions and fuel economy ratings.

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