New Documents Reveal Automakers’ Coordinated Campaign to Undermine Key Australian Climate Regulations

May 29 2023

Drawing on over 500 pages of previously unseen documents obtained via Freedom of Information (FOI) request, new research by climate think tank InfluenceMap sheds light on the auto industry's efforts to weaken climate policy in Australia. This research comes as the Australian government finalizes its consultation on the design of upcoming fuel efficiency (CO2) standards.

The research exposes how automakers' main industry association - the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) - orchestrated a strategic campaign to push policymakers to adopt rules in line with its own weak, voluntary CO2 standards. These standards, originally developed with the oil industry in 2018, would be significantly less ambitious than comparable international policies.

As the only developed country without vehicle fuel efficiency standards except Russia, negative industry advocacy risks pushing Australia down the priority list of global battery electric vehicle supply and undermining its national climate targets.

The documents reveal the FCAI’s playbook to weaken climate policy, including: A July 2022 meeting with policymakers the FCAI made clear that they aimed to convince Australia's Minister for Climate Change that legislating the FCAI’s voluntary CO2 standard “would effectively reduce emissions” according to a government email.

This is despite government modeling indicating that the FCAI's voluntary CO2 standard would be weaker than even Trump-era US regulations, as well as the EU.

FCAI sought to downplay the potential of battery electric vehicles in Australia in an April 2022 meeting with policymakers, while also pushing for the government to adopt weak fuel efficiency standards.

InfluenceMap Program Manager Ben Youriev says: This behind-the-scenes effort shows the automotive industry adopting a similar playbook to the oil industry to weaken climate rules aimed at promoting battery electric vehicles.

These documents show the FCAI and some of its key members are advocating to lock-in a longer-term role for combustion-powered vehicles by introducing significantly weaker fuel efficiency rules than in other regions like the US, EU, and New Zealand.

Such advocacy efforts risk making Australia a 'dumping ground' for polluting cars and are a major obstacle for Australia to meet its national climate targets.

The research also analyzes the climate policy engagement of Australia's 15 largest automakers on upcoming fuel efficiency standards. It finds: Negative engagement on fuel efficiency standards from Australia’s two top-selling automakers, Toyota and Hyundai, both of which occupy leadership positions in the FCAI.

FCAI's negative advocacy appears misaligned with key members Tesla, Volvo Cars (through Polestar) and Volkswagen, which appear to support higher ambition fuel efficiency standards.

Most automakers have limited direct engagement on upcoming fuel efficiency standards, suggesting that the FCAI is likely advocating on their behalf.

Click here to access full briefing

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact: Ben Youriev, InfluenceMap (London) E: ben.youriev { @}