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 7,100 kilometres by car every year, each emitting around 1.04 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • To offset these emissions more than 17 tree seedlings would need to be planted and grown for 10 years
  • That means our cars emit over three quarters of their own weight in COemissions each year

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).

  • In 2020, cars accounted for more than 8 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
  • On a per capita basis, Australia's greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 were nearly double the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average.
  • In the year 2030, it is estimated that cars alone will pump 39 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

The Australian Government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Australia is one of the only developed nations without a CO2 emissions standard for new light vehicles and our noxious emission standards are less stringent than elsewhere. Adopting impactful vehicle emissions standards has been a long term priority for RAC. Not only will they help provide Australians with better access to a great range of low and zero emission vehicles, they will also help reduce harmful vehicle emissions and the impacts on human health and the environment.

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 fuel quality is ranked 89th in the world, down from 85th in 2021. Currently, Australia's fuel ranks worse than Argentina (88th), Bosnia & Herzegovina (87th), and Guyana (86th).

Diesel fuel has met maximum allowable 10ppm (parts per million) sulfur specifications since January 2009 however, Australia's allowable sulfur content in unleaded fuel is up to 150ppm - 15 times the 'international standard'. Fortunately, Australia's dirty fuel is getting cleaner, and from December 2024 petrol sold in Australia will have a maximum sulfur level of 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.

It is estimated that in 2018, air pollution contributed to 3.236 Australia deaths, and was attributable to approximately 5.8 per cent of all cardiovascular disease, 3.2 per cent of all respiratory disease and 0.6 per cent of all cancers.

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