Company leadership on electric vehicles: there is no middle road
As many of us here in the U.S. prepare to pack our bags and hit the road for holiday season, let's take a moment to consider how we're traveling and which road we're on when it comes to transportation and our changing climate.
The Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change (IPCC) lays it out plain and simple: Climate change will wreak havoc on our world if we fail to slash emissions and rapidly transition to a low-carbon economy within the next decade. While there are many different approaches to accelerating this transition, it's clear that in order to make the necessary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions we must transform the transportation model on a global scale. That means rethinking the very way we get from here to there, ensuring near-term emission reductions and aggressively phasing out the internal combustion engine.
In 2016, the transportation sector became the largest emitter of GHG emissions in the U.S., surpassing even the electric power sector , and it also continues to be the fastest growing area of emissions. In fact, emissions from transportation made up 23 percent of global energy-related emissions and 28 percent of all U.S. emissions in 2016. At the same time, the federal government is seeking to weaken CAFE standards, the fuel economy rules that are necessary for meeting our transportation-related climate goals.
While there is a role for all of us to play in reducing our carbon footprintby transitioning to electric vehicles or walking, biking, or riding public transportation more oftenstrong policies and corporate leadership are where the rubber really hits the road. Strong policies help ensure the availability of clean vehicles, and more than half of the vehicles in use today are owned, operated, or otherwise managed by companies. That means companies have a massive opportunity, and a massive responsibility, to lead the charge into the clean transportation future .
Clean transportation has long been a focus for Ceres, and we have identified it as a key priority of our Commit to Climate initiative. We are working to prevent the evisceration of the fuel economy standards with investors and companies who recognize the staggering economic and environmental costs of a rollback, and we're advocating for federal and state policies that accelerate the widespread clean vehicle transition. We are working with our network of more than 130 companies to spur corporate procurement of electric vehicles and their supporting charging infrastructure. This is no easy task, of course, with a federal administration dragging the U.S. in the wrong direction, but our efforts are buoyed by an irrefutable business case and a strong appetite from businesses to bring about change.
Our research shows that the benefits of increased corporate investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including the associated rollout of electric vehicles, outweigh the costs by more than 3 to 1. That includes direct financial benefits, including the monetized cost of carbon reduction. It's simple: Electric vehicles save companies money on fuel and maintenance; they bolster employee recruitment and retention; and they improve the safety of their drivers. On top of all of this, they also help companies meet their sustainability goals, improve their public image, and reduce pollution in the communities where they operate. After all, there's not a business in the world that can thrive without clean air.
The good news is that businesses are coming around to this reality, too. They're noticing how dire our climate challenge has become and they're asking how they can help. They're also drawn in by the clear benefits that transitioning to electric vehicles brings to their bottom line. Ceres network members Bank of America, IKEA, PG&E, Clif Bar and Unilever have all joined EV100 — a global campaign led by The Climate Group and supported by Ceres as a North American regional engagement partner — which is designed to accelerate the corporate transition to electric vehicles.
Companies are also actively working to offset transportation emissions from their business operations. Transportation network company Lyft recently set a goal to make all of its rides carbon neutral, a short-term goal they aim to achieve while they work toward a 100 percent clean transportation future. At the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, Lyft's Director of Sustainability, Sam Arons, explained how important it is for Lyft to push itself to eliminate the internal combustion engine from its fleet. "We see what the future is and it's a zero carbon future," he said. "We see that on the horizon and we know that we have to act now, because if we don't somebody else will before we do."
Lyft also recently joined the Ceres BICEP network, where many major businesses are standing up for common-sense policies that contribute to a sustainable world. When it comes to clean transportation advocacy, Ceres BICEP companies are voicing their support for both federal and state policies that will help modernize our transportation system and reduce greenhouse gas emissions including:
- Maintaining strong national fuel economy and emissions standards, and upholding the rights of states to maintain their authority to address vehicle emissions
- Expanding policies and regulations to increase electric vehicle access and availability,
- Implementing regional policies to create a clean, equitable and efficient transportation system, and opposing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to reopen a diesel truck loophole allowing the use of antiquated engines, which are exponentially more polluting, in new trucks.
The good news is that private sector leadership and market forces are helping drive this transition forward. The 1 millionth electric vehicle just hit the road in the U.S., and with Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimating that electric vehicles will reach up-front cost parity with conventional vehicles by 2024 without subsidies, we're poised to reach a tipping point in the very near future. New technologies are getting us there as well, with the price of batteries falling rapidly, and more automakers rolling out new electric vehicle models to meet the growing demand. Many are already thinking about and acting on the next important step: moving beyond the passenger vehicle to ensure electric models are available for more applications and vehicle classes.
But while we are on our way to an electric future, the simple truth underscored by the IPCC report is that we must get there faster. For all of our progress, electric vehicles still represent just over 1 percent of the United States' vehicle fleet. We need strong standards to reduce emissions from the gas guzzlers that continue to dominate the market, and strong policies to ensure that the access to and availability of electric vehicles only continues to grow. For every company transitioning to electric vehicles there are still many, many others which have not yet evolved to think beyond the internal combustion engine. For every company supporting smart climate change policy, there are far too many that are either silent or are actively lobbying to undermine the clean vehicle transition.
As the IPCC report makes clear, we are at a crossroads. Companies have a clear choice to make regarding what role they will play in steering us toward — or away from — a sustainable future. There is no middle road.