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No vehicle emissions targets in PM’s net-zero plan

Consumers, companies not legislation to help achieve net-zero carbon emissions

27 Oct 2021

THE Morrison government has released a new net-zero carbon emissions plan it says will “deliver net-zero emissions by 2050 while preserving Australian jobs and generating new opportunities”, albeit without legislative assistance.


Australia’s ‘Long Term Emissions Reduction Plan’ includes no vehicle emissions targets, instead relying (in part) on $15 billion in government funding to reduce the costs of technologies such as clean hydrogen.


Instead of changing the law, prime minister Scott Morrison and the minister for industry, energy, and emissions reduction Angus Taylor said in a media statement that the federal government would achieve its goal by supporting environmental technologies and industry.


The plan rules out taxes or a “legislated mechanism” because such “regressive approaches would impose costs on households, businesses and regions least able to afford them”, the statement said.


“Australians want action on climate change. They’re taking action on climate change, but they also want to protect their jobs and their livelihoods. They also want to keep the costs of living down,” the prime minister said.


“Australia now has a target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and we have a clear plan for achieving it. The plan outlines responsible, practical action to achieve net zero that is in our national interest [and] will deliver results through technology, not taxes.


“It respects people’s choice and will not force mandates on what people can do or buy.”


The statement said that official projections show Australia is on track to reduce its carbon emissions by up to 35 per cent by 2030 but without quantifiable action on vehicle emissions or improved fuel quality.


The quality of Australian petrol currently ranks behind most OECD countries meaning some vehicle importers claim they are unable to offer their latest and cleanest-emitting cars to the local market.


The federal government has also deferred plans to adopt stricter Euro 7 emissions standards for vehicles until 2027 saying the capital investment required to upgrade Australia’s four remaining refineries was prohibitively expensive and that it did not wish to pass those costs on to Australian motorists.


Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese described the government’s net zero announcement as a “scam” and reminded Parliament that the prime minister had said that electric vehicles “would end the weekend”.


“At the last election they (the LNP) opposed net zero by 2050, the whole basis of what this has allegedly been about,” said Mr Albanese.


The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) was more circumspect, issuing a statement acknowledging the net zero announcement but reiterating its call for clear policy on emissions reduction.


“The automotive sector is ready and willing to participate when it comes to a direction on emissions reduction and the adoption of world’s best vehicle technology,” said FCAI chief executive Tony Weber.


“I encourage the federal government to adopt the FCAI (voluntary CO2 emissions) standard and work alongside the industry to send a strong signal to global manufacturing headquarters that Australians want access to the best vehicle technologies in the world.”


Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari went further, saying that to achieve net zero by 2050 required all new cars sold to emit no exhaust emissions before 2035 due to the average lifespan of modern vehicles.


“We are nowhere near on track for that currently. But we know what we have to do, because the rest of the world is doing it,” he said.


Mr Albanese said: “We have a plan to make electronic vehicles cheaper by reducing taxes. We asked the government about that today. They don't seem to comprehend that that's a large part of the high price for electric vehicles. If you want to change behaviour, you do make it cheaper. But, of course, they said that electric vehicles would end the weekend.”


Globally, atmospheric greenhouse gases reached a record high in 2020 despite temporary declines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations climate office said the world remains “well off target” for reducing emissions in an effort to tackle global warming.


Australia – one of the world’s key coal and gas producers and one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases on a per capita basis – has faced growing international criticism for refusing to join other countries in pledging to meet net-zero emissions targets by 2050.


Critics of prime minister Morrison’s latest plan say the move is focused on ensuring his re-election this May.


Polls show the broader population demands increased action of emissions reductions but that rural communities – crucial to Labor’s re-election hopes – tend to be opposed to such changes.


In its statement, the LNP government said Australia must preserve existing industries while allowing regional areas to prosper.


“The plan has the prosperity and wellbeing of regional Australia at its core. We have an opportunity to act now to harness existing regional strengths, unlock new areas of growth, and diversify economic activity in regions,” the prime minister said.


“We will invest in rural and regional Australia to ensure it succeeds and is protected under the plan. Australia will continue to build on our record of reducing emissions and achieve our targets in the Australian way.”


The government said its latest plan would drive down the costs of low-emissions technologies and energy prices by accelerating at-scale deployment of “a range of new technologies” across the economy.


Minister Taylor said that the government’s plan “is built on a set of key principles; the most important being technology, not taxes.”


“Unlike Labor, we won’t introduce a carbon tax that drives Australian jobs overseas and punishes the most vulnerable in our community through higher prices for electricity and other essentials,” minister Taylor said.


He said the LNP’s $20 billion investment in low-emissions technology was expected to “unlock at least $80 billion of total private and public investment” in areas including clean hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, energy storage, and ultra-low-cost solar, adding that Australia is “a world leader in renewable energy”.


He said the plan continues Australia’s “consistent achievement” to reducing greenhouse gas emissions with a roadmap that was specifically “designed for Australia”.


Mr Albanese retorted that the LNP “left it to the last possible minute to outline a scam that leaves everything to the last possible minute”.


“It's out on the never-never because this government will never, ever take climate change seriously.”


Minister Taylor continued: “Our plan continues the policies and initiatives that we have already put in place and that have proven to be successful, while preserving existing industries and jobs, and supporting regional Australia. It will not shut down coal or gas production, or require displacement of productive agricultural land.


“Between 2005 and 2021, Australia’s emissions fell by 20.8 per cent, outpacing the reductions of the US, Canada and New Zealand, and every other major commodity-exporting nation in the world. The most recent forecast shows we will cut our emissions by up to 35 per cent by 2030.


“Under our plan, the ‘Technology Investment Roadmap’ and global trends will see Australia reduce its emissions by 85 per cent by 2050.


“We are committed to closing the gap to net zero over the next three decades in a way that is consistent with Liberal Party and National Party values,” he concluded.

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