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GM pledges carbon neutrality by 2040, ten years sooner than VW, Ford

Yolanda Sun

General Motors says it is setting a science-based target of carbon neutrality by 2040.

The automaker says the vast majority of its cars, SUVs and pickups will be zero emission vehicles by 2035, and its global manufacturing sites will rely 100% on renewable energy by that year as well. GM expects to have its U.S. manufacturing sites using only renewable energy even sooner, by 2030.

The automaker is following in the footsteps of VW and Ford, says Sam Abuelsamid, Principal Analyst for Guidehouse Insights, but going further than those companies' targets of carbon neutrality by 2050.

"What's unique about what GM is doing is they've advanced that timeline by ten years," says Abuelsamid.  "So they're targeting a 2040 timeline to hit carbon neutrality."

Abuelsamid says companies like GM, Ford, and Volkswagen are making the targets out of a combination of a sense of necessity and responsibility, and an understanding that the automotive market is headed in that direction.

"It's a recognition that this is something that has to be done to keep the planet livable. But it's also becoming a business imperative, and it's something they realize they can do, in addition to: should do," he says.

Carbon neutrality means no net increase in carbon emissions from a human activity, such as growing crops or driving cars, by combining a dramatic decrease in actual emissions with carbon capture projects or buying credits to offset what remains. GM says its reliance on offsetting will be as minimal as possible.

GM's announcement comes as the Biden administration is rapidly embedding the urgent need to address climate change into the fabric of all agencies of the federal government, including first steps of rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, and a committment to buying electric vehicles for federal fleets.

GM says as it approaches the day when most of its vehicles will be zero emission battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell, that it will also continue to reduce the climate impact of its current vehicles with internal combustion engines.

The automaker made its targets in cooperation with the Environmental Defense Fund, which has been urging major corporations to move much faster in addressing the threats of climate change to human society and the earth.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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