Are we there yet? Clean Transport Scorecard for Australian states and territories

24.11.22 By , and
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With the transformation of Australia’s energy system underway and accelerating rapidly, decarbonising transport is the next frontier for our nation in tackling the climate crisis.

Transport accounts for 18.7 percent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and is the third highest source of emissions.

behind only electricity and stationary energy. Road transport is responsible for the bulk of transport emissions, with cars and light commercial vehicles alone making up 62 percent of this pollution. Importantly, at a time when emissions from other sectors have started a welcome and necessary decline, personal transport is one of Australia’s fastest growing sources of emissions. To help limit warming in line with the Paris Agreement and avoid a full-blown climate catastrophe, Australia should aim to reach net zero emissions by 2035.

Policies and investments that reduce transport emissions can be put in place now using existing technologies. This makes reducing emissions in the transport sector quickly this decade much easier than is the case for some other sectors of the economy, where solutions are in earlier stages of development. Given the range of clean transport options that are readily available, the focus for this sector should be on achieving near absolute zero emissions by 2035 or earlier. This means getting as close to zero emissions as possible with minimal use of offsetting or ‘net zero’ accounting.

Piroritising people (rather than cars) on our streets means we can move almost double the number of people

Decarbonising personal transport is a significantly bigger task than getting all drivers to swap their petrol vehicles for an electric vehicle. We also need to shift the focus of transportation away from being dominated by private cars. Boosting zero emissions public transport, and building quality, connected and safe footpaths and bike lanes gives people much better options so they can choose how to get around and do their bit in reducing emissions. Doing so will deliver a wide range of further benefits to people living in cities and regions such as cleaner air, healthier communities, lower travel costs, and much more liveable cities and towns. 

States and territories in Australia are responsible for public transport systems, as well as most of our road network. At the moment, most only allocate less than two percent of their budgets on essential infrastructure for active transport like footpaths and bikes. This is not what the Australian public expects – with 77 percent wanting their state or territory to prioritise this spending or at least balance it against road funding.

This report compares the performance of Australia’s states and territories when it comes to driving the decarbonisation of personal transport. It provides a transparent baseline for comparing where we are today, as well as for tracking progress as each jurisdiction works to cut transport emissions over time.

Key Findings 

1. Cleaning up transport is the next frontier in tackling the climate crisis, as this is Australia’s third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions – and it’s rising.

2. A few states and territories are bucking the trend of rising transport emissions, with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Tasmania leading the race to decarbonise transport.

3. Transport needs and the capacity to act vary across states and territories. All are switching gears when it comes to clean transport, but need to do much more to rapidly reduce emissions.

4. Shifting rapidly away from a transport system dominated by private, polluting cars to one that’s more active and runs on clean energy will dramatically improve our lives in many ways.