Australia’s Struggle with Vehicle Emissions Standards
Australia’s Struggle with Vehicle Emissions Standards

Australia’s Struggle with Vehicle Emissions Standards

September 27, 2023

Australia is grappling with the challenge of outdated vehicle emissions standards, raising concerns over the country becoming a receptacle for inefficient, pollution-intensive vehicles. The federal government is currently crafting legislation aimed at regulating the carbon emissions of newly sold cars in the country.

Despite discussions around emissions standards beginning approximately 15 years ago, Australia remains one of the few industrialised nations without established regulations in this domain. The government is actively engaging with various stakeholders, including environmental groups and car manufacturers, to finalise its policy.

The Divisive Debate on Emissions

The debate over emissions standards is intensifying, with notable entities like Tesla and the Climate Council accusing major Australian car lobbies of promoting policies that could potentially hinder the transition to cleaner vehicles. According to Professor Matthew Burke from Griffith University, the forthcoming scheme will inevitably create winners and losers in the industry.

Professor Burke, a renowned transport expert, labels Australia a “world laggard” in adopting fuel efficiency standards. He highlights that the country’s slow progress puts it at a disadvantage, delaying the introduction of fuel-efficient vehicles into the Australian market.

Electric Vehicles in Focus

Although the sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are on the rise, they constitute a mere 6% of new car sales in Australia. Tesla’s Model Y is one of the popular choices among consumers. However, the market is also flooded with high-emission vehicles, including petrol-powered utes, 4WDs, and SUVs from leading brands like Toyota and Ford.

Electric vehicles typically carry a higher price tag compared to their petrol and diesel counterparts, leading to long waiting lists for interested buyers. The government believes that the introduction of emissions standards will not only increase the availability of EVs but also make them more affordable for Australians.

Government’s Climate Commitment

Approximately 10% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to passenger cars. The government is considering emissions standards as a crucial step towards fulfilling its commitment to mitigating climate change. The proposed standards are expected to facilitate the entry of more electric vehicles into the Australian market, subsequently driving down prices.

The government recently sought public opinions on the impending standards, receiving around 2,700 submissions. A majority of these supported the idea of implementing emissions standards, with contributions from Tesla, the Climate Council, Toyota, Hyundai, and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).

Global Perspective and Future Targets

Countries like Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States have already set emissions standards in place. These standards typically provide manufacturers with an overall emissions target for all new cars they sell, allowing them to offer high-emission vehicles as long as they also sell low-emission models to balance out the average.

The emissions caps are designed to decrease annually, with the ultimate goal of phasing out petrol and diesel cars. Europe aims to achieve this by 2035, while the UK has set a more ambitious target for 2030. In its submission, the National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA) advocated for a 2035 target for Australia.

Final Thoughts

With the government expected to announce a clearer policy position by the end of the year, all eyes are on the forthcoming emissions standards and their potential impact on the Australian automotive market. The introduction of these standards is not just a step towards environmental conservation but also a move that considers the preferences and needs of Australian consumers.


  • How will new emissions standards affect vehicle prices in Australia? The standards are expected to lower electric vehicle prices as they become more common and accessible in the market.
  • What percentage of new car sales in Australia are electric vehicles? Electric vehicles represent approximately 6% of new car sales in Australia.
  • Why is Australia lagging in implementing vehicle emissions standards? Delays are due to opposition from industry groups, government changes, and lack of policy consensus among stakeholders.
  • How do Tesla and the Climate Council view the proposed emissions standards? Both entities have concerns about policy loopholes promoted by major car lobbies, which might hinder the transition to cleaner vehicles.
  • What types of vehicles are popular in the Australian market? Petrol-powered utes, 4WDs, and SUVs are popular, but there’s growing interest in electric vehicles, like Tesla’s Model Y.

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