Transport Emissions Policy: Kicking the Big, Growing Can down the Road

Transport has Australia’s biggest emission reduction task – and little government support.

The 2017 Review of Climate Change Policies released over Christmas presents a re-hash of current policies and policy reviews, deferring new progress to after the 2019 federal election. Transport emissions will continue growing at record levels in the meantime, begging the question:

How long can we keep kicking the transport emissions Can down the road?

Australia’s Fast-Growing Transport Emissions

trend target 2

Transport is the main culprit in Australia’s rising greenhouse gas emissions story, it’s emissions now at record highs driven by ever-growing demand for freight and passenger movement. The sector contributes 18% of Australia’s emissions and has the largest abatement task ahead to help meet Australia’s reduction targets – one third of Australia’s total task to 2030. With Australia’s Paris commitment effectively a ‘floor’, our reduction targets will increase in ambition. To meet science-based targets that will slow down climate change below 2 degrees warming, Australia’s abatement task should be doubled.

Either way, there’s much work ahead for the Transport sector.

This without considering emissions from the long shipping and air routes we depend so heavily on for trade. Shipping remains the only industry without global legislation to limit or offset greenhouse gas emissions.

can small      Global policy challenge

“Of all the myriad ways that energy is produced and used,

transportation has the greatest promise to change our lives for the better,

and yet it is languishing under business as usual.” – Rocky Mountain Institute

Neglecting Transport in climate policy is a global problem starting to get some attention. The Bonn COP23 climate negotiations in November introduced several transport initiatives to achieve the Paris 2050 goal of a net zero emission world economy, noting “without rapid and ambitious mitigation action, transport emissions could more than double by 2050”.

Far from its climate policy leadership a decade ago, Australia is stuck with growing transport emissions, relying on voluntary action with no strategic goals or policy to reverse the trend.

Change will come with China’s emissions trading scheme, where scope 3 emissions from transporting bulk minerals to market may be counted in Chinese carbon footprints, applying a carbon price that exposes our policy vulnerability and drastically reduce competitiveness.

can medium      Weak current policy

black spot

Transport is trapped in a carbon policy Black Spot nation-wide, often specifically excluded from energy policies at federal and state levels, while energy and emissions are a side show in transport policies. Vague notions of improving productivity and supporting low emission technologies instead of clear emission reduction targets and integrated supporting actions.

How much decarbonising of transport is evident in the policies identified by the 2017 climate policy review?

POLICY REVIEW TABLEThe industrial sector needs huge amounts of carbon offsets for Australia to meet its 26% emission reduction target by 2030, but with large volumes of low-cost offsets available from the land sector, Reputex expects no Transport abatement in its ACCU supply curve outlook.

Business-as-usual won’t accelerate take-up of new technologies, practices, or – critically – management focus; a bold strategic vision is needed.

can big jpg      2018 opportunity & risk

Several current policy reviews can together help address the task effectively at least cost:

POLICY REVIEW TABLEThey offer hope that 2018 could instead be a year for strong policy action, integrating suites of co-ordinated measures at all levels of government to guide and provide certainty for business investment in low carbon transport.

With the fastest growing emissions of any sector, Transport has the biggest decarbonisation task of them all. When the Can gets so big we can’t kick it any further, we may look back to 2018 and ask why we didn’t address it sooner, when action was less difficult and expensive than when we’re further down the road.





China’s carbon trading to capture supply chain emissions

The carbon intensity of Australia’s exports to China will come under increasing scrutiny when its Emissions Trading Scheme is launched this year, joining moves both planned and already underway by a host of other Asian countries.

Scope 3 emissions, such as transport & distribution, are generated outside an organisation’s direct control and are often the largest part of their emissions. Exposure to highly carbon-intensive products and supply chains will meet an explicit price signal that could harm the competitiveness of Australian products, and needs our increasing attention.

How to lift energy productivity in Freight Transport

A Roadmap to double energy productivity in Freight Transport by 2030” is now released for comment, and yours will be most welcome.

Urgent action is needed to generate more economic value from the energy used to move freight in Australia, as congested cities increasingly constrain productivity across the economy. Decisions made today can lock-in energy-intensive freight transport activities for decades.

Published by the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity using extensive consultation with leading transport businesses, industry associations and government stakeholders, the roadmap aims to agree actions and priorities for both industry and government under the National Energy Productivity Plan (NEPP).

Transport is now Australia’s largest energy user, and with the freight task to grow 25% over the next decade, it will have ever-greater influence on congestion, climate change, air pollution and economic productivity across all sectors. The transport sector has some of the most cost-effective opportunities for energy and emissions savings, yet as the NEPP 2016 annual report notes, raising energy productivity in freight and commercial transport relies largely on voluntary action, and little progress is being made.

The Roadmap considers trends that will shape future energy use in the sector, including increasing urbanisation, a shift to renewable energy, vehicle electrification, connectivity and intelligent transport systems, automation and business model transformation. It gauges the extent of improvements possible via known technologies; it highlights the uncertainty expected from various levels of disruption that is coming; and it identifies measures to help the transition to a much more energy-productive freight sector.

Key suggestions will be incorporated into its final version, so please check it out and contribute your ideas.