NSW Vehicle Emissions Offset Scheme An Indulgence?

NSW Vehicle Emissions Offset Scheme

When New South Wales drivers go to renew their vehicle registration, they now have the option of also offsetting their emissions.

First, about the “indulgence” bit. Starting in the Middle Ages, indulgences were offered by the Catholic Church as a way to reduce the amount of God’s punishment one had to undergo for sins committed. As the practice evolved, or mutated, it became increasingly tied to money.

In the modern era, carbon offsets could be considered a type of indulgence. It’s the same sort of concept, but with the planet’s wrath involved instead of the Almighty’s.

The New South Wales government has begun offering access to indulgences carbon offsets for the “sin” of driving an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Last week NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean announced NSW drivers can voluntarily choose to offset their vehicle’s carbon emissions each year when they renew their rego.

There won’t be any potentially dodgy international offsets involved. These will all be true-blue, fair dinkum and recently blessed Australian offsets provided via the scheme’s official provider partner Corporate Carbon Advisory (CCA).

Corporate Carbon has been in the offsets game  for close to thirteen years and says it has been involved with more than a hundred carbon projects under the Emissions Reduction Fund. These projects have delivered 10 million ACCUs (Australian Carbon Credit Units) to the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) and commercial clients.

So, what types of projects are associated with the Vehicle Emissions Offset Scheme (VEOS)? According to the company:

“With VEOS, you can offset the carbon emissions from your daily commute and support projects that regenerate bushland and re-establish native forests. So, don’t just renew your registration, renew your commitment to a sustainable future with VEOS.”

Regenerating bushland and re-establishing native forests done right are Very Good Things. Plus, Mr. Kean says it will help NSW reach its targets of 70 per cent emissions reduction by 2035 and net zero by 2050. But some argue offsets can be a form of “greenwashing” and take the urgency out of focusing on reducing emissions from the activity being offset.

It will be interesting to see how many NSW ICE drivers feel a twinge of guilt when renewing their registration and opt-in.  Those who do so can offset any amount between $5 and $200. Mr. Kean noted it will cost $80 in offsets for the average car annually.

“The transport sector is responsible for about 22 per cent of all NSW emissions, with almost 50 per cent coming from passenger vehicles,” he stated. “More and more NSW drivers are opting for electric vehicles (EVs) each year, however this scheme gives those drivers who haven’t made the switch yet the option to offset their emissions instead.”

And that’s a lot of drivers. More information on the VEOS scheme can be found here.

How Is NSW Supporting EV Uptake?

Mr. Kean mentioned electric vehicles and the good news is the New South Wales Government is doing a fair bit on this front, encouraging uptake through:

  • Stumping up $209 million for EV charging infrastructure
  • Offering zero stamp duty on EVs under $78,000
  • Offering $3,000 rebates for EVs under $68,750

.. and there are privileges such as being able to drive an EV solo in transit lanes.

All this is part of the State Government’s broader zero emissions transport strategy that includes a $3 billion commitment to transition the state’s entire diesel and gas bus and coach fleet.

Electric vehicles are still a pretty pricey bit of kit. But there are lots of savings and warm, fuzzy feelings to be had beyond the initial outlay; particularly if EV charging is primarily performed using a home’s rooftop solar panels as the energy source. Check out SQ’s Homeowners Guide To Solar Power And Electric Cars.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. George Kaplan says

    Interesting to see indulgences for ICEV use offered. It’s quite in keeping with climate change as religion, and money spent on growing bushland, native forest – or even commercial forestry (though this isn’t funded), isn’t a bad thing – if done cost effectively..

  2. Malcolm Dent says

    Honestly, I like it. I know there may be a bunch of people saying that they should just be trying to push people to electric cars and public transport, but I’ve got a motorbike with a sidecar. That’s my transport, and I can take the entire family in it. I do not have a car. I do not want a car. I do not even have a car license.
    Any electric bikes I can afford (I’m on Carer pension) don’t have the power I need, and any that may have the power I can’t afford (and would probably be ripped in half trying to pull a double-sidecar. I doubt I could find anything with an old-fashioned full steel frame)
    So petrol it is.

    Buuuut….if I can’t be the solution, I would still rather not be the problem. Paying someone else to pull the CO2 I put up there back out would seem to solve the problem, as long as it was simple, but most importantly I felt I could trust they were doing what they said they were doing.

    Honestly, if these are high-quality, we-are-really-doing-it, abatements that cover the damage I do, then I’m in.

  3. Graham Revill says

    I still dont understand how growing trees can be considered useful offsets. Perhaps its a matter of definition. To me the only thing to do with CO2 is to remove it permanently from the atmosphere. Removing it for 10 years or 100 years is no good at all and just passes the problem to our grandchildren but worse than we have it now.
    If I plant a tree then it absorbs CO2 as it grows. Then, in 20 years time,I cut it down and use the wood to make paper, furniture and houses. In three months the paper is land fill, in 5 years the furniture is landfill and in 50 years the house is landfill and all the CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. In some cases the rotting process will turn the carbon into methane which is much worse than the CO2.
    I have seen that trees bury some carbon in some form underground but I can’t find what form this takes or if it’s a significant quantity, and what is its long term future? I don’t think this is referring to a few roots.
    Sequestration should be for 1000 years or its useless.
    Trees as offsets is such big business that there must be an obvious answer
    Can anyone solve this conundrum?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      If trees are grown on land without trees and trees remain on that ground for 1,000 years then the carbon in those trees will be locked up for 1,000 years. This is the case even if trees are sustainably harvested because a large amount of wood and biomass will remain and the removed portions will be regrown. But this isn’t very satisfying because we know, even if people start with good intentions, few things last 1,000 years. What can be done to ensure carbon is locked up long term is to take biomass from that land and dump it in deep ocean water. Alternatively, it can be turned into charcoal and buried. This way one piece of land could lock up carbon long term every year and not just in the initial growth phase.

      Unless there is a process to remove carbon from the land and sequester it or strong reasons to believe the new growth will remain there for centuries, the long term nature of carbon sequestration from just growing trees is dubious. But, it’s better than not growing trees, carbon can start to be removed from the land and sequestered at a later date, and decreasing population growth and still improving agricultural yeilds means there is less demand for land clearing than in the past.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Graham Revill,
      To me the only thing to do with CO2 is to remove it permanently from the atmosphere.

      Correct!

      See the Hansen et. al. pre-print paper titled Global warming in the pipeline, submitted 8 Dec 2022 to Oxford Open Climate Change and publicly available at arXiv:
      https://arxiv.org/abs/2212.04474

      Figure 6 indicates to me that the cooling effect of aerosols (primarily human-induced from the burning of fossil fuels) in the atmosphere has kept the global mean surface temperature of the order of 0.7 to 1.0 °C lower than it would have been if there were no aerosols in the atmosphere. By decarbonising, humanity will be exposed to a rapid temperature increase as the cooling effect of aerosols diminishes. This is the ‘Faustian Bargain’ humanity has committed to that Hansen alludes to.

      The Earth System is already at around +1.2 °C warming level (relative to the 1880-1920 global mean surface temperature). Per the Hansen et. al. pre-print, that means we are already committed (excluding slow feedbacks) to breach the +2 °C warming threshold at the current GHG concentration level, likely on our current GHG emissions trajectory in the 2040s (per Figure 19).

      Three stages are required to mitigate the climate emergency:

      i. Deep and rapid decarbonisation of civilisation ASAP – no more new fossil fuel developments AND a rapid phase-out of the utilisation of existing fossil fuel infrastructure;

      ii. ‘Negative emissions’ or PERMANENT atmospheric carbon drawdown to safely get greenhouse gas concentration levels back to well below 350 ppm (CO₂-equivalent); and

      iii. Maintain arctic summer sea ice cover.

      There are no ifs or buts here – the Laws of Physics are non-negotiable.

      I’d suggest a modest step in the right direction is still failing – we/humanity need to do what’s required, or face civilisation collapse before 2100!

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