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States demands feds step up on climate

State environment ministers have called on the Morrison government to strengthen Australia’s vehicle emissions standards and tighten obligations on big polluters.

NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania pushed the Morrison government to show climate leadership at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum on Friday.

“The Commonwealth’s leadership in this space is vitally important if we want to secure a more prosperous future for our entire nation,” NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean told the virtual event.

“But in the absence of that leadership, then the states and territories are going to continue to work together in the national interest.”

Victoria and Queensland supported stronger vehicle emissions standards that would help get more Australians into electric cars.

“There is a significant piece missing here. And that’s just one example of where Commonwealth must come along for the ride here,” Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.

Her counterpart in Tasmania called for federal consistency in standards, while Queensland’s minister stressed electric vehicles remained unaffordable for most.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week rejected calls to subsidise electric vehicles to make them cheaper or regulate pollution through a mandatory emissions vehicle standard.

The electric vehicle industry warns this is making Australia a dumping ground for high-polluting cars because manufacturers have no incentive to supply to the market with cleaner alternatives.

Meanwhile, South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs criticised “patchy” federal leadership when it came to transitioning the agriculture sector.

WA labelled the federal government’s refusal to tighten obligations on polluters through an existing climate safeguard mechanism a missed opportunity.

“It’s actually not a bad mechanism. The problem is they just don’t use it, they don’t use it at all and companies want certainty,” WA Environment Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said.

“I would just call on them to use the existing policies they have if they don’t want to do anything too bold.”

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