Alarming rise in deaths from air pollution

The Age: Alarming rise in deaths from air pollution. August 20, 2014. Deborah Gough, Reporter for The Age.

Air pollution: cars responsible for 60 per cent of transport emissions

Air pollution-related deaths in Australia have jumped by 69 per cent in five years while deaths in 20 other similar countries have declined, a report from Victoria’s Auditor General has said.

The Auditor General, John Doyle’s report said there were 1483 deaths related to air pollution in 2012, a leap from 882 deaths in 2005.

At the same time, 20 other countries, including the United Kingdom, United States and Germany, had decreases in their pollution-related death. Mr Doyle cited a 2014 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report that suggested this was due to stricter vehicle emissions in those countries.

The cost of these pollution-related deaths to Australia was $5.8 billion in 2010. It was estimated that 50 per cent could be attributed to air pollution from road transport, the Auditor General’s report said.

Victoria’s total emissions from transport have grown 41.2 per cent from 1990 to 2012 and the report estimated that transport accounted for 18.72 per cent of Victoria’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2011–12.

Passenger cars were responsible for about 60 per cent of transport greenhouse gases, the report said.

The Auditor General’s report ”Managing the Environmental Impacts of Transport” was critical of the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure’s efforts to reduce emissions, pollution and noise.

Mr Doyle singled out VicRoads as ahead of most agencies within the transport department on environmental impact measures. However overall he criticised the department’s environmental performance saying much of its plan was aspirational and without goals, performance measures and focus.

He also singled out Public Transport Victoria for failing to have a dedicated plan for reducing emissions or energy consumption and failing to act on suggestions made in 2012.

Under the Transport Integration Act, transport agencies must ”manage the transport system in a way that actively contributes to environmental sustainability” the report said.

Mr Doyle was critical of the department’s response to his recommendations.

”I am disappointed by (the department’s) less than fulsome acceptance of my recommendations for it to develop a statewide strategy to address the environmental impacts of the transport system,” Mr Doyle said.

Victorian Auditor-General’s report:  Managing the Environmental Impacts of Transport

The environmental impacts of the Victorian transport system are significant and include the production of greenhouse gas emissions, other air pollution and noise.

Minimising these impacts has been a legislated objective since 2010, but it is clear that the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure (DTPLI) has not adequately addressed this when developing the state’s strategic transport and land-use planning framework (the strategic framework)—consisting of Plan Melbourne, Victoria—The Freight State and the state’s eight regional growth plans.

During the strategic framework’s development, DTPLI did not provide the government with any advice:

  • about how proposed strategies would address the environmental impacts of the transport system
  • proposing defined statewide objectives or targets for reducing transport‑related greenhouse gases and other emissions and for limiting the effect of traffic noise.

In the absence of DTPLI developing a comprehensive monitoring and reporting framework with clearly defined expected environmental outcomes and performance measures, the framework currently remains aspirational in this regard.

Across the three agencies examined, VicRoads has the most comprehensive strategy for managing environmental impacts, and this is a model for what should exist on a portfolio-wide basis.

Public Transport Victoria (PTV), on the other hand, does not have a dedicated plan and its performance in this regard has declined since our 2012 audit, Public Transport Performance. Specifically, PTV did not progress options identified by the former Department of Transport on how to improve public transport’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Further, the quality and availability of publicly-reported information on public transport’s environmental performance has declined.

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