How much do you know about the impact of cars on our health and the environment?

Did you know...

  • On average, Western Australians drive around 11,400 kilometres every year, each generating around 3.13 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • That means our cars emit around twice their own weight in CO2 emissions each year.
  • To offset these emissions more than 53 tree seedlings would need to be planted and grown for 10 years.

Cars and emissions

Cars produce a range of pollutants that impact our air quality, environment and health. These include carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), oxides of sulfur (SOx), particulate matter (PM), hydrocarbon emissions, and ozone (O3). 

  • Cars and light commercial vehicles account for 10 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
  • On a per capita basis, Australia's emissions are nearly four times the global average.
  • We have the eighth highest CO2 emissions in the world for road transport.
  • Our growing transport sector is set to pump another 14 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by 2030.  

The Australian Government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. 

Australia is the only developed nation without a CO2 emissions standard for new cars - establishing such a standard has been a long term RAC priority. This will also help provide Australians with better access to a great range of low and zero emission vehicles.

Fuel and air quality

The quality of Australian fuel is lagging well behind the rest of the world, due to the amount of sulfur content allowed in our petrol. 

Australia's allowable sulfur content in unleaded fuel is up to 150 parts per million (ppm). This is one of the highest in the developed world and up to 15 times higher than countries like China, where air pollution is a major environmental problem. In the European Union, allowable sulfur content is capped at 10ppm. 

vehicle emissions comparison petrol vs diesel 

Sulfur content in fuel is a concern because it impacts the levels of poisonous gases in vehicle exhaust emissions, affecting air quality and our health. 

Sulfur irritates airways, and can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest, as well as burning of the eyes and skin. When sulfur combines with other compounds in the atmosphere it can create smog and contribute to acid rain. 

In 2015 alone, around 2,566 people died in Australia due to air pollution, more than twice the number of road deaths nationally in 2018. 

The Australian Government has committed to reducing sulfur content in petrol to 10ppm by 2027, but RAC is calling for the timeframe to be brought forward. 

RAC's position on vehicle emissions

RAC advocates for all Western Australians, whether they are a driver, passenger, cyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian or public transport user. 

These documents outline our public policy positions, and what we are calling on from the State and Federal Governments to support better mobility for Western Australians.

RAC Public Policy

Federal Priorities for Western Australia

State Budget Submission