Road-based transport (cars, trucks and buses) that still largely depend on fossil fuels is the key problem, accounting for 90 per cent of all transport emissions.
But public transport operators are also among the country’s biggest transport emitters, the first comprehensive report tracking Australian transport emissions reveals.
About 70 per cent of Australia’s major transport operators including Metro Trains, Keolis Australia, V/Line and Transdev have policies that are out of step with Victoria’s net zero emissions goal by 2050, the ClimateWorks report shows.
Metro Trains was listed as Victoria’s biggest public transport emitter, but was still behind Sydney Trains. Metro was followed by Keolis Australia (which operates Melbourne’s trams), V/Line and Transdev. None of these operators have up-to-date climate policies.
Qantas, which was named in the analysis as the country’s biggest transport emitter, was the only company to commit to the target, which is considered a key element of the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce global temperatures to well below 2 degrees.
Freight and logistics companies Aurizon, Toll and Linfox were listed as major emitters that have outmoded climate targets.
ClimateWorks’ senior project manager Michael Li said large public transport and government vehicle fleets provided ample opportunity to reduce emissions which would send a signal to vehicle and component manufacturers and battery suppliers.
“There’s an opportunity for the public transport operators to use that scale and fleet purchasing power to stimulate the demand for low vehicle emissions in Australia.”
In a briefing paper submitted to government ahead of the state releasing its delayed 2025 and 2030 emissions targets, Environment Victoria has called for an end to the state’s love affair with cars, which contribute to half of all transport emissions.
“That’s not a small slice of the pie,” campaigns manager Nicholas Aberle said in calling for a “wholesale shift” in transport’s energy use.
A major investment in public transport was needed to encourage people to use trains, trams and buses over the construction of major highways that lock Melbourne in to a dependence on cars, he said.
But the government and public transport operators must work together to lower public transport emissions, Mr Aberle said.
“Metro Trains could be running on 100 per cent renewable energy through these power purchase agreements in the same way that our trams are.
“It would be great to see the government require this in the next round of tenders.”
Australia’s road vehicles make up one of the most energy-intensive fleets in the world (45 per cent higher than Europe), but the country is the only one of six in the OECD that does not regulate vehicle emissions.
This was desperately needed Mr Aberle said, and would not only improve the environment but save Victorians money on fuel.
A congestion charge for cars entering the city should be considered as well as incentives for people to buy electric vehicles such as the removal of car registration and priority lanes on major highways, he said.
A state government spokeswoman said the transport emissions reduction pledges would “set an ambitious roadmap to reduce emissions across the transport sector”.
“The Metro Tunnel, Airport Rail and the Suburban Rail Loop will run more trains than Victoria has ever seen – taking cars off our roads and helping Victorians get where they need to go.”
A Metro Trains spokesman said the company was looking at improving the efficiency of trains, buildings and stations.
“Metro continues to roll out initiatives to drive down energy use and water consumption, divert waste from landfill, protect native flora and fauna, and support a more accessible network for Melbourne.”
A V/Line spokesman said the agency aimed to keep emissions below a 2017-18 baseline, with more than 80 per cent of V/Line’s emissions coming from its diesel operated trains.
“V/Line supports the Victorian Government’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 target and is taking a number of steps to reduce emissions while continuing to run a full timetable for passengers across Victoria.”
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a dramatic 36 per cent drop in global emissions, which has been primarily triggered by the low number of vehicles on the road, the CSIRO found.
Aviation fuel emissions in Australia fell by 39 per cent from January to May this year, according to environmental consultancy Ndevr.
Timna Jacks is Transport Reporter at The Age