CO2 around the world

Element - - Transport - Alas­tair Sloane

The National Govern­ment is watch­ing what Aus­tralia does with its CO2 stan­dard. National will re­view the ef­fect of the ETS trans­port tax around the mid­dle of next year but won’t re­port its find­ings un­til af­ter the 2011 gen­eral elec­tion.

Across the ditch, Prime Min­is­ter Ju­lia Gil­lard’s Labour govern­ment – if it re­turns to of­fice – says it will look at a manda­tory CO2 tar­get of 190gr/km by 2015, re­duc­ing fur­ther to 155gr/km in 2024.

A Tony Abbott-led Lib­eral coali­tion govern­ment is likely to adopt a sim­i­lar pro­posal, given the plan al­ready has qual­i­fied sup­port from the Aus­tralian car in­dus­try which has floated its own fig­ure of 195gr/km. Both po­lit­i­cal par­ties have left room for ne­go­ti­a­tion with the Aus­tralian car in­dus­try, specif­i­cally Holden, Ford and Toy­ota, says web­site GoAuto. The fi­nal fig­ures might not change much, but, as has hap­pened in Europe, there could be al­lowances based on fac­tors such as ve­hi­cle mass. In Europe, the EU is phas­ing in a 130gr/km limit for pas­sen­ger cars by 2012 – and has set a limit of 95gr/km by 2020 – but the ini­tial tar­get for each car­maker varies ac­cord­ing to the av­er­age weight of their ve­hi­cles. That means that the mak­ers of big­ger cars, such as the pres­tige English and Ger­man brands, might only have to reach, say, 140gr/km, while small-car spe­cial­ists such as Fiat will not have the same lux­ury. Among the crit­i­cisms lev­elled at this ap­proach is that it dis­cour­ages car­mak­ers from re­duc­ing ve­hi­cle mass and could even prompt some to build big­ger and heav­ier cars to re­ceive a less de­mand­ing CO2 tar­get.

While New Zealand’s and Aus­tralia’s CO2 fig­ure is mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion, other coun­tries are mov­ing at a much faster rate. At the end of last year – the most re­cent find­ing – New Zealand’s CO2 fleet av­er­age was 204gr/km; Aus­tralia’s was 222gr/km. Both find­ings were bet­ter than the US fig­ure of 256.6gr/km but well be­hind Bri­tain (149.5gr/km), Europe (145.9gr/km, taken across 21 coun­tries) and Ja­pan (131.2gr/ km). For its part, Suzuki – a spe­cial­ist maker of small ve­hi­cles – says it has the clean­est cars in the coun­try, claim­ing its ve­hi­cles emit an av­er­age 165.6 grams of CO2 gas per kilo­me­tre (ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey car­ried out in 2010).

The rat­ing is lower than the govern­ment’s pro­posed 2015 stan­dard of 170g/km. How­ever, close be­hind are VW (165.9) and Honda at 178. Mean­time, ve­hi­cles ca­pa­ble of run­ning on biofuels such as E85 ethanol are likely to get room to move from manda­tory fuel ef­fi­ciency stan­dards in Aus­tralia.

Although the vol­ume of CO2 emit­ted from the E85 car’s tailpipe is lit­tle dif­fer­ent to those of cars run­ning on fos­sil fu­els, pro­po­nents of ethanol ar­gue that up to 50 per cent of CO2 is ei­ther re­cap­tured in the grow­ing of plants such as su­gar cane or sorghum or uses car­bon that would other­wise be emit­ted as meth­ane.

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