Showing posts with label electric vehicles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label electric vehicles. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Net zero can't be reached by magic, but we can ease the pain

Scott Morrison’s long-term plan for net zero emissions by 2050 won’t impress anyone who’s been following Australia’s long and tortuous battle over climate change. But then, it’s not intended to.

His “learning” after miraculously wining the unwinnable election in 2019 is that whatever half-truths he tells voters will be believed by enough of them. Particularly since God is on his side, not the side of those other, untruthful and ungodly people.

No, his Plan – which is not a plan to achieve net zero, just an optimistic forecast that it will be achieved – is largely a political document, intended to be sufficient to convince those voters who aren’t paying attention that he’s “doing more” to cope with climate change.

His goal is not so much to fix the climate as to neutralise it as an issue at next year’s election. Climate change is an issue that naturally favours Labor. He wants all the focus to be on two issues that naturally favour the Coalition: the economy and national security.

He was walking a tightrope last week. He had to discourage voters in Liberal heartland seats who were worried about global warming from trying to send their party a message by voting for liberal independents – as they’ve done in Tony Abbott’s former seat and, briefly, Malcolm Turnbull’s – by convincing them he was serious about reducing emissions.

At the same time, however, he needed to reassure voters in the National Party’s various Queensland coal-mining seats that he wasn’t serious.

His solution was to produce a document that says: the boffins I hired assure me we’re on track to eliminate net emissions by 2050 but, don’t worry, this will be achieved by the miracle of new technology, without anyone feeling a thing.

There’ll be no new taxes, no new regulations forcing people to do things and no new costs on households, businesses or regions. We won’t shut down coal and gas production, and no jobs will be lost.

Does it sound a bit too good to be true? Voters in the Liberal heartland tend to be well educated and well informed. I doubt it will do the trick.

As we’ve seen with the pandemic, when our federal leaders fail to lead, others feel a need to fill the vacuum. The premiers, of course, but also many people from business and the community.

The latest report from Tony Wood and colleagues at the Grattan Institute, Towards net zero: a practical plan, offers a more realistic assessment of the challenge we face, says why we must get more achieved by 2030 and proposes ways this can be done without too much pain.

Perhaps because he’s not standing for office, Wood is frank about the difficulty in getting to net zero. The scale and pace of change involved in a net-zero target are “daunting, but they are outweighed by the consequences of the alternative.

“Factors outside Australia’s control will shape the flow of capital and the demand for our exports, while climate change itself will increasingly threaten Australians’ lives and livelihoods.”

Just so. Only a fool would believe we can avoid pain by doing nothing. We can seek to delay the pain, but that would relinquish our ability to influence our future, as well as making the pain greater.

The longer we leave it to make big progress towards net zero, the more pain we ultimately suffer. But also, our failure to throw our support behind the global push for earlier progress – which is what we’re failing to do in Glasgow this week – increases the risk that the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees will be exceeded by the end of this decade, making it less likely we ever get back below it.

But while it’s foolish to think we can avoid pain, we shouldn’t imagine the pain will be intolerable. And here’s the trick: provided it’s done sensibly, paying a bit more tax and putting up with a bit more regulation is actually intended to reduce the amount of pain, and share it more fairly.

Wood accepts Morrison’s figuring showing that we’re likely to exceed the 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 we promised to make in 2015. But we’ll still fall short of the 45 to 50 per cent reduction we’re being asked to make and other rich countries are agreeing to.

Wood’s plan for getting up to the higher target is neither heroic nor frightening. While we wait for the technological breakthroughs Morrison’s modelling assumes will come, we should get on with applying the technology we already have.

Generate electricity almost completely from renewables, and step up the move to electric cars and vans by tightening emission standards for petrol-driven cars, giving EVs tax breaks and supporting the spread of charging stations.

This is the first step towards the new green manufacturing industries that will provide the regional jobs for miners and gas workers to move to as other countries stop buying our coal and gas.

It won’t be easy or painless, but it’s not beyond the wit of decent governments.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Getting to net-zero emissions an easier ride than some want to think

I have a mate who – in normal times, anyway – gives me a lift to the gym in his new all-electric Mercedes. He loves its lack of engine noise and amazingly fast acceleration when the lights change (not that I’m implying he’s a rev-head hoon the police should be watching). I’m no car lover, but it’s certainly a smooth, quiet ride.

Most of us accept that, as part of the world’s move to net-zero emissions by 2050, we’ll all be moving to electric cars. Other countries are already further down this road than us.

We’ve made big strides in shifting electricity generation to renewables, and our emissions are falling. But electricity production accounts for only a third of our total emissions. Transport, in all its forms, accounts for about 20 per cent of total emissions, so its move away from fossil fuels is another part of the transition we should get on with.

In all the years we’ve been arguing about climate change, people have tried to convince us how costly it will be. How disruptive to industry and our way of life. All the higher prices, the tax we’ll pay, the jobs we’ll lose.

So far, however, there’s been little extra cost or disruption. The rise of wind and solar power has happened without much pain. And a report this week from Tony Wood and colleagues at the Grattan Institute think tank suggests the move to electric vehicles can be achieved without angst.

More than 60 per cent of the transport sector’s 20 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions comes from the tailpipes of cars and light commercial vehicles, including our two biggest selling cars, Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger utes. That leaves trucks accounting for 20 per cent of the sector’s emissions and domestic aviation for about 10 per cent.

Australia has about 18 million light vehicles, up from fewer than 15 million in 2010. And we’re driving bigger, heavier cars than we were a decade ago. (All those appalling SUVs. One day they’ll run over my little Toyota Yaris.)

At present, electric vehicles make up just 0.7 per cent of new sales in Australia. This doesn’t count hybrid electric/petrol cars which, because of their continued use of fossil fuel, can’t be a lasting part of the shift, Wood says.

Our tiny all-electric share of new sales compares with 2 per cent in the US, 3 per cent in New Zealand, 11 per cent in Britain and 75 per cent in Norway.

Because it takes more than 20 years to replace our light vehicle fleet, for our transport sector to make a sufficient contribution to the target of net-zero total emissions by 2050 we’ll need to get to the point where all new light vehicles are electric by about 2035, he estimates.

Government projections suggest that, if the market is left to itself, the move to electric vehicles will cause light vehicle emissions in 2030 to be 7 per cent lower than they were in 2019. This isn’t good enough.

So what can be done to speed the shift? Wood says governments should reduce the main barriers to buying an electric car. First, the high cost of switching and limited choice and, second, the lack of charging points.

We pay an average of about $40,000 for a new car. But we have fewer than 30 electric models to choose from – much lower than overseas – and of these, just three models retail for less than $50,000.

As with all innovative products, the price of electric cars is coming down as the novelty wears off and sales increase. They’ll fall further as batteries become cheaper to make. But the point where the price of an electric car falls below an equivalent conventional car is still some years away.

So Wood proposes removing several taxes on the purchase of new electric cars. Scrapping state stamp duty would cut the price by up to 6.5 per cent, he estimates. Remembering that, these days, all vehicles are imported, removing federal import duty would cut the cost by up to a further 5 per cent.

Exempting electric cars from the federal luxury car tax – a tax of 33 per cent of the price exceeding the first $80,000 – until 2030 would also help.

Australia is alone among the rich countries in not having mandatory fuel efficiency and emissions standards. And there’s a suspicion some foreign makers send us only the high-emissions conventional models they have trouble flogging in other markets.

So to these carrots, Wood adds a stick: to phase out petrol and diesel cars, the feds should impose an emissions limit on light vehicles and reduce it to zero by 2035.

Many people hesitate to buy an electric vehicle because they worry about finding places to recharge. Wood says governments should require all new buildings with off-street parking to make provision for vehicle charging.

Getting everyone into electric vehicles wouldn’t solve our emissions problem, but it would help. And it’s another indication that the fears of huge costs and disruption are greatly exaggerated.

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