Greenpeace Australia Pacific has welcomed the Federal Government’s New Vehicle Emissions Standards (NVES) legislation as a win for climate action.

The New Vehicle Emissions Standards will mean Australia goes from having a wild-west, rule-free car market, to reaching similar pollution limits as the US within 4 years, and it will mean a 50% reduction in new car emissions by 2029. The scheme is loophole-free, with bonus credits ruled out. And it is designed to be future proof, with targets that can only be made stronger.

This important climate decision will make all the difference when it comes to urgently bringing more affordable electric vehicles into Australia and is crucial if Australia is to meet its climate targets.

Strong vehicle efficiency standards will bring about real cuts to pollution and cleaner, quieter cities for us all to enjoy. This will mean less toxic, harmful pollution from the petrol and diesel burnt in our cars: a great outcome for Australian communities and our planet.

There is some bad news: in the final days of negotiation, the Government sadly caved to pressure from multinational car makers on a few details. Luxury petrol-guzzling SUVs like the Lexus LX were reclassified as “light commercial vehicles,” allowing them an easier ride on emissions standards. And the targets for light commercial vehicles were also weakened in the first years of the scheme.

Make no mistake – these concessions mean the standards will be 20% less effective at curbing pollution in the short-term. But we can take heart that the gap will shrink over time, and Australia will still be in a position to move to 100% zero emission vehicle sales by 2035.

The NVES is an important step towards achieving Australia’s climate targets, laying the groundwork for more action on transport emissions. By working closely with the states to make major and necessary investments in active transport, the Government can continue to accelerate its climate ambitions.

The good, the bad, the ugly

The Good:

  • Australia will catch up to other major markets by 2030
  • Legislation rules out ‘supercredits’ and loopholes 

The Bad

  • By weakening the targets for Light Commercial Vehicles, the Bill will only achieve 80% of the pollution reduction that was in the model proposed in February 2024
  • Using the ‘ladder frame chassis’ and ‘braked towing capacity’ as the criteria for classification as a ‘light commercial vehicle’ is a sensible approach, however it will unfortunately still result in an easier ride for luxury SUVs that are more consumer choice than business necessity.

The Ugly:

  • The Government has held its IT systems responsible for not being able to commence the scheme in January 2025. Surely, the Government can find a way to track vehicle sales and apply the penalties and credits after the system is fully set up.
  • Low-income earners stand to benefit the most from electric vehicles. The Government should be looking at measures to reduce upfront costs and increase charging accessibility for all Australians.
  • The petrol and diesel car lobby group, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, are still fighting to keep Australian cars as toxic and polluting as possible, while asking motorists to keep paying high prices for imported petrol.