I was recently looking through the March edition of Royal Auto (which the RACV still send to me even though I’ve cancelled my roadside membership) and was interested to see that climate change getting a lot of attention in the magazine. I had a bit of a look around on the internet and it seems that the RACV has accepted the political reality of needing to accept climate change.
Unfortunately – but not unexpectedly – they seem to be trying to play down the impact of cars on climate change. Transport accounts for 14% of total national greenhouse emissions, and cars alone account for around 8%. The RACV is using the 8% figure to suggest that, while climate change is real and bad, cars aren’t a big part of the problem. This is pretty misleading for two main reasons:
1. The RACV have disaggregated car and truck emissions
When looking at transport emissions, the RACV has separated cars from other transport emissions, the majority of which are from trucks. Whilst car users aren’t directly responsible for emissions from trucks, it’s not accurate to claim that car friendly policies won’t have any impact on trucks. Upgrade a road to reduce car journey time and it’s a fair bet that it will become more attractive to trucks as well.
On a macro level, a successful road transport system will make trucks more competitive with freight rail just as it will make cars more competitive with public transport. If the RACV is going to discuss the impact of car friendly policy on the environment, trucks should be included as well. That puts the figure closer to 14% of national emissions.
2. The RACV have used national figures to inform household decision making
This one is arguably the biggest issue. The makeup of Australia’s national emissions is substantially different from that of Australia’s households. Whilst transport accounts for 14% of national emissions, it is far and away the biggest contributor to household emissions. The PTUA have looked at this issue in more detail, so I won’t rehash their figures. Telling people that cars aren’t a big contributor to climate change is misleading. Disturbingly, it gives people the impression that their driving habits only make up a small proportion of their greenhouse emissions, when it is their largest single personal contribution.
Incidently, my view is that the best way to measure carbon emissions is through consumption rather than household spending, but it’s hard to get the figures on an aggregate level.
Cynicism Aside, it is good to see the RACV actually acknowledging the problem exists. I’d just like them give public transport more than a cursory mention. Often, the best way to increase amenity for people who enjoy driving is to get everyone else onto public transport, thus reducing congestion. It would be nice (although completely unrealistic) for the RACV to articulate this position.