The time for debate has passed. If the world is to reduce manmade greenhouse gas emissions that are the cause of global climate change, we must accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy now, starting with cleaner transportation.
That is why the leaders of the global auto industry have committed their companies to decarbonizing automotive transportation. In a recent public statement, 13 automotive CEOs promised to take specific actions to achieve that goal.
The move follows the COP21 climate conference in Paris, which resulted in a new global agreement to combat climate change. The country-by-country commitments that comprise the Paris agreement, by themselves, will not be enough to ensure a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy. The support of the business community is imperative.
That transition will occur one way or another. It will either be an orderly transition over the next two to three decades, or a disorderly one, spurred by crises and human hardship. Further delay in taking global action will only ensure the latter.
An orderly transition is one that occurs within the existing financial and economic system. It does not threaten or overwhelm the foundation of our market economy. It does not require aggressive government intervention and centralized demand and control.
An orderly transition provides an opportunity to create many winners, because adaptive and innovative companies will flourish.
Today, 95 percent of all automotive transport depends on petroleum-based fuels. Of the world’s total oil production, 64 percent is used for transportation.
The number of vehicles on the world’s roads will more than double from about 800 million today to more than 2 billion by 2050. We cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels to power those vehicles if we are going to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
At the Renault-Nissan Alliance, we believe there is a practical, affordable way to begin reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and it is available today: Electric vehicles. EVs are the only zero-emissions vehicles that can be powered with purely renewable energy.
The Union of Concerned Scientists recently conducted a rigorous study that compared the lifetime emissions from EVs vs. cars with traditional internal combustion engines. The study examined the vehicles’ global warming emissions over their complete lifecycles, from the raw materials to make the car through manufacturing, driving, disposal or recycling. And it concluded what earlier studies have shown: From cradle to grave, battery electric vehicles are considerably cleaner. The study found that even in areas of the United States that are more dependent on coal to generate electricity, driving an EV produces lower global warming emissions than the average new gasoline-powered car.
The Renault-Nissan Alliance has sold more than 284,000 EVs since Nissan launched the Leaf five years ago this month; our lineup of EVs accounts for more than half of the EVs on the world’s roads today, and represents an investment of more than $4 billion.
While I’m proud of our EV leadership, I know it’s not enough. Zero-emissions vehicles remain a tiny fraction of the overall market. It is up to automakers and governments to help make EV’s become a mainstream phenomenon.
The good news is we are nearing a turning point. Battery technology is improving, there are more and more charging stations being installed around the world. And other automakers are joining us with new EVs, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell EVs, which are helping to expand the market for zero- and low-emission vehicles.
Most of these new entrants, like Renault and Nissan’s EVs, are aimed at the mass market, where they have the potential to make the biggest difference. When there are more players, there’s more competition, and competition stimulates demand.
Just as significantly, governments around the world are helping stimulate EV demand with various incentives, from cash for trading in old, polluting cars, to free parking and EV access to bus and high-occupancy lanes. The industry is committed to advocating for these and other policies that place a priority on greenhouse gas reduction, including better urban planning that reduces travel growth.
We are also working with governments and businesses to expand the charging infrastructure that’s necessary if EVs are to go mainstream. In places where such investments have taken place, such as Norway and the U.S. city of Atlanta, customers have reacted positively and sales have grown rapidly.
By investing in green innovation, companies can create value for their future while playing a major role in fighting the threat climate change poses. In fact, according to the latest New Climate Economy Report, produced by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, the global market for low-carbon and environmental goods and services is worth more than $5.5 trillion.
This kind of investment will continue to grow. It has already helped many businesses create competitive advantages, build stability, and better position themselves for future challenges.
It is also just the right thing to do. Ending the transport sector’s reliance on fossil fuels will take decades, but the effort must begin in earnest now. Our industry is committed, in coordination with the public sector, to taking the carbon out of automotive transportation.