Can carmakers steer away from climate catastrophe?

(Eco Business, 16 Oct 2019) The car industry is among the world’s most polluting. Amid growing public pressure to cut emissions and with new solutions disrupting their business model, how can automakers prepare for the dramatic changes ahead and help tackle global warming?

Ever since its commercial introduction about 150 years ago, the automobile has transformed human societies and the environment in unimaginable ways, with whole cities having been designed around the four-wheeled carriage, and highways now traversing almost every country around the world.

Aided by popular culture, where the automobile has starred alongside icons such as James Dean and Steve McQueen, cars have evolved beyond being a means of transportation into a status symbol and aspirational lifestyle choice.

But while allowing humans to travel farther and faster, carmakers have also become one of the biggest drivers of man-made global warming, accounting for 9 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions last year as markets—especially in emerging economies—continue to grow, a new study launched by environmental group Greenpeace has found.

The group says the automotive sector, ignoring repeated warnings of impending climate catastrophe, has shirked demands for a phase-out of petrol and diesel cars and failed to promote energy-efficient, battery-powered vehicles while pouring millions of dollars into lobbying efforts to undermine initiatives to reduce heat-trapping emissions from the transport sector.

The study, which analysed the climate impacts of the world’s 12 leading car companies, shows that Volkswagen was the biggest climate culprit last year, followed by Renault-Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, and Hyundai-Kia. These top five emitters are responsible for 55 per cent of the industry’s carbon footprint. 

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Eco Business, 16 Oct 2019: Can carmakers steer away from climate catastrophe?