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NSW to go it alone on vehicle emissions standards to avoid becoming ‘dumping ground’ | Greenhouse gas emissions

Plans are in the works for New South Wales to go it alone on vehicle emissions regulations after nearly two decades of inaction by the federal government.

The details were revealed after a draft copy of the New South Wales 2020-2030 Clean Air Strategy, outlining proposals for stricter regulations around noxious emissions and CO2 standards for vehicles sold within the state, was leaked to the media.

While the document raises concerns about pollution caused by wood-fired heaters in regional areas, its most ambitious proposal is for a plan to “harmonise” the state’s vehicle emissions regulations with European standards and encourage the uptake of electric vehicles.

The New South Wales minister for environment, Matt Kean, declined to comment about any specifics as the strategy was still subject to cabinet processes.

“Any changes NSW proposes to the national vehicle emission standards would only apply to new cars that are already available overseas. More importantly, cleaner vehicles are more fuel efficient, saving motorists money at the bowser,” Kean said.

“I will always advocate for policies to stop NSW being used as a dumping ground for the world’s dirtiest vehicles.”

While the plans have yet to be officially released in their final form, any New South Wales push to pass CO2 emissions standards may force the hand of the federal government.

The move signals an evolving states-based approach on the issue of fuel efficiency and emissions regulations after decades of inaction by federal Labor and Liberal governments.

After four years of consultation, the Morrison government released its “future fuels” strategy paper in February that was immediately slammed as a “do nothing“ document for rejecting stricter fuel efficiency standards.

Should Victoria follow suit and introduce a plan to harmonise its fuel efficiency and emissions regulations with Europe, the country’s two largest regional economies would be covered by a stricter regulatory standard than that at a federal level.

Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning was contacted for comment but did not respond by deadline.

Australia’s loose attitude on noxious and CO2 emissions has made the country an outlier within the global vehicle market. Thanks to the regulatory black hole the country has become a dumping ground for thirsty petrol and diesel vehicles that are becoming increasingly difficult to sell elsewhere.

The idea of state governments acting independently met a mixed response from industry bodies such as the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Its chief, Tony Weber, said that his organisation supported stricter emissions and fuel quality standards for Australian vehicles, but leaving it up to the states risked creating a patchwork of regulations across the country that would be bad for business.

“In an ideal world we would have a CO2 target,” Weber said. “We believe there should be a CO2 target and that it should be at a national level.

“We can’t have every state and territory going off on a whim. This needs to be handled at a federal level. That’s why we’ve put in a voluntary standard for our members which represents the manufacturers of 99% of vehicles sold in this country.”

His comments were echoed by the Australian Automotive Dealer Association chief executive, James Voortman, who said it was up to the federal government to ensure a consistent standard.

“I can’t blame the NSW government for doing this if they think this is the right way to go,” Voortman said. “The question of fuel efficiency standards has been looked at by Labor governments, Liberal governments and for a number of reasons they’ve decided not to act.

“We’ve seen the manufacturers themselves have signed up to a voluntary vehicle emissions standard.

“So it’s something our manufacturers support and it’s something dealers support, and we’re increasingly noticing that it’s something customers want. If you take a close look there’s another story about the growth of hybrid vehicles, that’s been the standout over the last 12 months. So the demand is there.”

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