Clean Air Agreement a welcome but timid first step to cutting pollution death toll

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Gas Energy Australia welcomed the release of the National Clean Air Agreement as a timid first step by Australian governments to improve our air quality. But the agenda needs to be more ambitious to make serious inroads into toxic pollution killing 3000 Australians a year, CEO John Griffiths said today.

While Gas Energy Australia supports the initial actions in the Agreement, they don’t go far enough, lock in toxic diesel exhaust and fail to harness Australia’s cleaner, cheaper alternatives.

“Toxic emissions are estimated to kill 3,000 Australians every year which is almost three times the annual road toll,” Mr Griffiths said.

“While comparable countries around the world are acting on both carbon and other pollutants, Australia runs the real risk for being the dumping ground for old technology clunkers.”

“For example, some operators are already commissioning LNG powered cruise ships to meet new European standards, leaving the risk that their older fleets will be shifted to Sydney Harbour and the Great Barrier Reef. Why? – Because we allow it.”

“Gas Energy Australia welcomes the introduction of emission standards for new non-road spark ignition engines and equipment. But regulating lawn mowers barely trims the edges of a much larger toxic emissions problem.

“We note that the proposed annual mean threshold in the agreement of 25µg/m3 for PM10 pollution exceeds the World Health Organization (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines of 20µg/m3. We support the initiative shown by the ACT and Victorian Governments in choosing to adopt the lower threshold.

”However, a significant number of other off-road engines and equipment are powered by diesel and the NSW EPA’s 2014 Reducing Emissions from Non-Road Diesel Engines report identified the gap in national regulations on emissions from these sources and emphasised the need for urgent action.

“This was largely driven by the classification of diesel engine exhaust emissions as carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation in 2012.

Mr Griffiths said renewables only offer part of the solution because 30% of Australia’s energy useage is transport related and renewables cannot offer reliable base-load off-grid power and there is a strong case for gas fuels as part of the transition to a lower carbon, lower polluting future.

Natural gas fuels for example emit up to 25% less CO2, 99% less SOx, 75% less NOx and a reduction of particulate matter of 85 – 100%.

“You can’t run large trucks on wind power or cruise ships on solar and at the moment they are fuelled by higher polluting diesel and bunker oil.

“Only gaseous fuels have both the quantity and technology capacity to significantly displace higher polluting diesel.

In addition to the carbon and emissions benefits, gas doesn’t slick or produce reef killing sediment if spilled – it safely evaporates.

“Rather than prescribing which technologies can and can’t be funded we believe the clean air agenda should set a more ambitious target and the green schemes should support and fund the best environmental outcomes.

Expanding the clean air agenda to the power of gas fuels, for both lower carbon and lower pollutants, is not difficult and rewards lower pollutants as well as Australian production and innovation.

“So congratulations on starting the journey but let’s hope this agenda and the Commonwealth Government’s parallel vehicles emissions agenda show more commitment to addressing the bigger problems.”

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Media contact: John Griffiths 02 6176 3100

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