What is the automotive industry doing about Climate Change?
Short Answer: The global auto industry is currently trying to contribute to climate change efforts through the following: Advocacy for policies that reduce greenhouse gases, developing more efficient fossil-fuel automobiles, and moving towards sustainable mobility
Did you know that the very first cars actually ran on peanut oil, a biofuel that is a net-zero on CO2 emissions! But as we all know, fossil fuels took over the entire road transport industry shortly after.
The world consumes about 4 billion tons of oil every year. A Kg of oil emits about 3 Kg of CO2, so the CO2 from oil use alone come to about 12 billion tons.
A good percentage of this oil is used in our automobiles. As a result, the automotive sector is currently one of the largest contributors to CO2, with road transport alone contributing about 15% of total global CO2 emissions – about 5.5 billion tons per annum. (See here for the contribution of the entire transport sector to CO2 emissions)
Hence it is only natural that there are tremendous expectations from the auto industry to do something about CO2 emissions reduction.
Does the auto industry have a plan to do something about these emissions?
The good news is: Yes. At the very least, the industry has made a start.
In recent years, CEOs of top auto makers worldwide have made significant commitments to reduce the CO2 emitted by automobiles. In 2017, the CEOs of General Motors, Ford Motor, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Nissan-Renault Alliance, Volvo Group, Beijing Automotive Group and India’s Mahindra & Mahindra, along with the leaders of some of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, signed a commitment to help “decarbonize” automotive transportation.
As a group, the companies said they would commit to:
- Continue improving the internal combustion engine, while also developing new energy-efficient drive-trains. Such energy efficiency leads to lower CO2 emissions for the same miles travelled.
- Advocate policies that place a value on greenhouse gas reduction, such as incentives for advanced technology vehicles, and other policies that include better urban planning to reduce congestion.
- Harness the potential of new technologies such as electric mobility and the sharing economy to provide new and flexible mobility options.
The above combined commitment from top auto majors is indeed a significant milestone. Never before had so many global auto leaders come together on a joint cause.
It is interesting to note that the US automakers among this group have in addition stated that the US government’s withdrawal U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement did not affect their views on climate change, or their plans to reduce carbon emissions.
In short: The global auto industry has not done anything dramatic as yet specifically towards CO2 emissions reductions, but there’s strong commitment and serious plans are afoot.
Read also: My review of Bill Gates’ book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.