Pledge Signed to Make All New Passenger Vehicles Zero Emissions by 2050
Achieving climate stabilization goals necessitates flipping the switch to zero-emitting, electric-drive vehicles as soon as possible.
Yesterday at the Paris Climate talks (COP21) leaders from 13 jurisdictions across North America and Europe—California, Connecticut, Germany, Maryland, Massachusetts, The Netherlands, New York, Norway, Oregon, Québec, Rhode Island, United Kingdom and Vermont—announced commitments that all new passenger vehicles will use zero emission vehicle (ZEV) technologies no later than 2050. Most experts agree we must widely adopt these technologies, which include battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, to cut carbon pollution globally from the transportation sector.
The groundswell of commitments show these regions believe it's possible—and necessary— to go all-in on electric vehicles. It's also a powerful signal to the global automotive industry to "go fast" with electric-drive vehicles and for the rest of the country and the world, to look to ZEVs as a critical element in staving off the worst effects of climate change.
Growing From a Handful to Many
The transportation sector is among the fastest growing source of carbon pollution, contributing almost one-quarter of the global energy-related emissions, according to the United Nations. The unique alliance—which includes states such as Maryland, California and New York and nation-states such as the United Kingdom and Germany—is paving the way for a global transition that could cut emissions by more than one billion tons per year by 2050 representing 40 percent of global vehicle emissions, according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation.
The 13 jurisdictions together have a market size of more than ten million new passenger vehicles per year. If the alliance achieves its goals, roughly 200 million ZEVs will hit the streets between now and 2050. The approach validates efforts from leaders such as Governors Jerry Brown of California, Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and Kate Gordon of Oregon who are spearheading their own climate movement with their peers, including working together to set a precedent for increasing electric vehicles. This movement will likely continue to grow as other jurisdictions join this groundswell.
The commitments also strongly reinforces the strategic direction that some automakers, notably BMW and Nissan, are adopting by making ZEVs a core part of their business model going forward, while also confirming the potential market for newer ZEV manufacturers like Tesla.
Scaling Up. Big Time.
Globally, car makers have produced and sold more than one million ZEVs, up from demonstration scale numbers in 2007. The current scale-up has helped to rapidly drive down battery costs by 60 percent. Those costs are forecasted to go even lower as these commitments from this alliance increase market size.
Taking the High Ground
As other jurisdictions look to potentially join the alliance, it's also clear that—behind the targets—the current leaders in the ZEV Alliance are also taking action to protect their own jurisdictions, citizens and future citizens. Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon stated, "The serious threats presented by global warming have been known for over three decades and future generations will rightly judge the morality and leadership of this generation not by the fact of climate change, but how we responded."
Maryland's Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles said, "Electric vehicles will help drive Maryland's environmental and economic progress. Cooperative partnerships such as this can help accelerate the adoption of these vehicles locally and globally, benefiting citizens, consumers and ecosystems along the way."
The governments that are participants in the International ZEV Alliance include Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom in Europe; California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont in the U.S.; and Québec in Canada. For more information on the agreement, visit the International ZEV Alliance website.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
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