Greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks are currently growing so fast that national emission reduction targets will be impossible to achieve; biofuels are causing hunger and deforestation for little or no benefit; and new motorways make carbon pricing more painful for vulnerable households. These are just some of the warnings contained in a new report submitted to the Garnaut Climate Change Review.
“Everyone knows that motor vehicles are a major source of emissions,” said Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) President Daniel Bowen. “What’s frightening is the rapid growth in transport emissions and the huge risk that things will get even worse as the relatively clean, easier-to-get oil is used up. Current transport policy is a roadmap to dangerous climate change.”
The new report – Climate Policy at the Junction – outlined recent evidence from some of the world’s leading climate scientists and concluded that continuing high levels of motor vehicle use would be “extremely foolhardy” in light of the gathering pace of climate change. The report also proposes that car use be cut by at least 60% even if average vehicle carbon emissions are halved.
“A concerted national effort to get more people walking, cycling and using public transport – not just the current token efforts – would have countless positive spin-offs like cleaner air, less congestion, less carnage on the roads, lower fuel bills, and healthier people,” said Mr Bowen. “Add the massive reduction in carbon emissions and it’s a no-brainer.”
“Federal budget priorities would need to change of course,” said Mr Bowen. “Instead of $2 billion going to encourage company cars to drive further each year, public transport networks need to be upgraded and expanded to give people a realistic alternative for getting around.”
The report also praised the European-style public transport management structure adopted in Perth and soon to be implemented in Brisbane. “If public transport is to be useful for more journeys by more people, services need to be well organised and well integrated. Too many people just aren’t getting that at the moment,” concluded Mr Bowen.
* While efforts to combat congestion often focus on freight and commercial traffic, passenger cars make up 80.7% of traffic in Australia’s capital cities; 82.5% in Melbourne, and 82.9% in Sydney. (See report, pp 4-5.)
* Use of hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius can reduce traffic pollution and emissions, but studies indicate that gains are reduced because increased vehicle efficiency leads to people driving their car around 20% more. (See p12.) And gains are also reduced when hybrid cars are used in free-flowing traffic, because much of the efficiency comes from generation of electricity while braking. (See p22.)
* If it was a country, the Australian transport sector would be one of the top 50 greenhouse polluters in the world. (See p3.)
* Halving average vehicle emissions – which is all the automotive industry indicates is feasible – would still result in car emissions that are higher than
the required target for transport as a whole including trucks, buses and aircraft. (See p12.)