Less people on the roads during coronavirus lockdowns has seen less emissions from cars. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Simon Dallinger
Less people on the roads during coronavirus lockdowns has seen less emissions from cars. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Simon Dallinger

VOICES FOR THE EARTH: Cars after coronavirus

THE COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector in Australia and elsewhere.

In Australia this sector accounts for 18.9 per cent of our emissions with light vehicles (cars) contributing about 10 per cent of our total emissions. These emissions have reduced because fewer people are driving.

A recent article by Kate Cranney in the CSIRO’s magazine Ecos listed some of the other consequences of this.

She points out the number of people walking and cycling during the lockdown has skyrocketed. While this has benefited public health, it has led to many cities, including Melbourne, expanding bike lanes and pedestrian paths to cater for the increased traffic.

Fewer cars on the road have also brought improvements to human health through improved air quality. This improvement is significant given the poor Australian standards for fuel efficiency and vehicle emissions.

Australia’s per capita transport emissions are 45 per cent higher that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development average. For years there have been calls for improved local standards which would reduce emissions, improve air quality and save motorists money. Inexplicably the federal government has failed to act.

Another consequence Cranney lists is the steep decline in vehicle sales this year. In March Australian sales were down 17.9 per cent, in April 48.5 per cent, and in May 35.3 per cent. There were similar declines globally.

Interestingly, more Australians were buying hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles than ever before. However, even with this improvement Australia’s take up of these vehicles is very low compared to other countries.

While in 2010 worldwide there were close to zero electric cars on the road, in 2019 electric vehicle sales topped 2.1 million globally, boosting the global stock to 7.2 million.

CSIRO researcher Dr Christopher Munnings believes there are many reasons that Australians should be early adopters of EVs. These include the fact that many more zero emissions models are entering the Australian market, that charging can be done overnight at home, that most people living in urban areas do not drive long distances each day, and that more public charging stations around the country are being provided as the numbers of EVs increase.



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