THE RUDD GOVERNMENT and State Premiers are expected to discuss the introduction of mandatory carbon emission standards at this week's Council of Australian Governments meeting in Darwin - a move which could precipitate radical change in the local car industry.
Green-car incentives are also said to be on the agenda and, if approved, could give buyers of diesel, hybrid and high-efficiency petrol cars significant savings.
The COAG discussions will likely examine similar green car incentives and emissions-related legislation recently passed by US President Barack Obama, and the talks will be aimed toward gaining some kind of Australia-wide consensus on the issue.
Presently there are no mandatory fuel economy or carbon emission standards for Australian passenger cars, but a set of voluntary industry targets do exist.
Replacing these with a rigid emissions requirement will undoubtedly deliver long-term environmental benefits, but it may force some changes for Australia's car manufacturing operations.
According to FCAI figures, the average carbon output of all new passenger and light commercial vehicles sold in Australia last year hovers around the 222.4g/km mark - not far off Australia's 2010 target of 222g/km.
To put that into perspective, however, the industry body for Europe's automakers has introduced a voluntary target of 120g/km by 2012
New fuel economy and emissions mandates are clearly needed if Australia is to keep up with America and Europe, but at this early stage it's unclear how Australia's automakers and auto importers would react to any new laws.
To date, numbers that have been proposed may see average emissions of 160-180g/km targeted, but it's simply too early to tell. Watch this space.