In the space of a day, two organizations have put forward proposals to improve air quality in our capital cities – but there are also financial benefits to doing so, they say.
Two independent reports released on Sunday have each proposed banning petrol and diesel vehicles from Australian capital cities.
One plan, put forward by think tank The Grattan Institute, would involve restricting 20-year-old trucks from driving within areas of Sydney and Melbourne to help reduce the level of harmful pollutants in the air.
Meanwhile, in an effort to electrify road transport in the city, the Committee for Sydney has released its plan (named Decarbonising Sydney) which would see the sales of new petrol and diesel cars banned from 2027.
Both reports list air quality and health as reasons to impose stricter emissions regulations on the cities, with an estimated 1700 deaths being attributed to air pollution from road transport annually – of which 400 are attributed to heavy commercial vehicles.
None of these targets have become law – and no Australian jurisdictions have indicated plans to enact them.
“Trucks make our lives better in so many ways: they deliver parcels to our door, groceries to the supermarket, tools to the hardware store, building equipment to our construction sites, and medical supplies to our hospitals,” said report lead author and Grattan Institute Transport and Cities Program Director Marion Terrill in a media statement.
“But this report shows why and how Australia should do more to limit the damage they leave behind.”
The Grattan report proposes banning trucks manufactured before 2003 from certain roads in capital cities, while the Committee for Sydney suggests banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2027.
Sam Kernaghan, Resilience Program Director at the Committee for Sydney, says the NSW capital has the technology to achieve its emissions targets, but isn’t currently on track to meet them.
“To halve emissions by 2030, the only levers big enough to make a real difference are getting many more electric vehicles on the road, and reducing the carbon intensity of the energy we use,” he said.
Overseas, cities including Tokyo, Beijing, Barcelona, and Madrid have introduced ‘low emissions zones’ to keep out polluting trucks and improve air quality, while London recently added another level – the ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) – which encompasses older cars , motorcycles, and vans.
The new ultra-low emissions zone is expected to help encourage the uptake of electric and hybrid vehicles within London, thanks to a £12.50 ($AU21.25) daily charge for non-compliant vehicles.
According to the City of London, the restrictions contributed to a 44 per cent reduction in harmful roadside nitrogen dioxide within the zone.
“It’s up to industry and government at all levels to collaborate and lead by example, using their purchasing power to speed up the transition, and introduce the regulatory reform, incentives and policy moves to make the transition as easy for consumers as possible,” said Mr Kernaghan, from the Committee for Sydney.
Modeling released by the urban policy think tank shows drivers could also save an estimated $1250 each year on fuel with an electric car – or as much as $2000 per annum when combined with a solar energy system at home.
Mr Kernaghan says the obstacles to decarbonising shouldn’t be underestimated, but doing nothing also comes with a cost.
“Both come with big social, logistical and political challenges, but the reduced energy bills that come with electrifying transport and buildings will be worth it,” he said.
“Many Australians are deeply concerned about rising costs of living at the moment – this research shows by 2030 household energy costs are modeled to fall significantly with electrification of cars and homes.”