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May 2014

Recently released reports have sounded the alarm on the serious health effects from air pollution in Australia. First, the newspaper coverage of the release of an OECD report was pointing to Australia trailing behind its OECD peers on yet another statistic, and this time a really deadly one: the mortality from air pollution. OECD reckons that Australia is one of the few OECD countries where air quality related mortality has increased in recent years. They pointed specifically to the air quality impacts of road transport.

This should come as no surprise, as Australia is heavily reliant on road transport. In addition, fuel efficiency of vehicles used in road transport is low, and the emissions standards for heavy vehicles are not particularly strict nor strictly enforced. Also, there seems to be reluctance among the public to embrace newer, cleaner technologies, such as hybrid or fully electric vehicles.

Another report released almost at the same time by the Environment Justice Australia asserts that: ‘Air pollution in Australia is inadequately regulated, monitored and enforced’.

This is also not surprising, as the environmental ineffectiveness of some of the most prominent air pollution regulations in Australia, such as the Load Based Licensing in NSW has been documented in the environmental economics literature (most recently an article by Contreras, Ancev and Betz, in the Economics of Energy and Environmental Policy)

So, air pollution is gaining on us, and it is time that we revised the regulation and start seeing some real improvements. I am doubtful that this will happen though, given the current government's aversion to tighter environmental regulation. So, happy on-going asphyxiation everyone!