President Joe Biden will sign an executive order setting the “ambitious target” of making half of all new vehicles sold in the United States by 2030 zero-emission, the White House has said.
The executive order, to be inked on Thursday, calls for 50 percent of US vehicles sales to be “battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles” in fewer than 10 years. It is the latest move by the Biden administration to undo former President Donald Trump’s dramatic loosening of many environmental regulations and climate protections.
The new target was also announced along with a voluntary commitment from the top three US auto manufacturers – Ford, General Motors and Stellantis – to achieve sales of “40-50” percent of zero-emissions vehicles by 2030. The executive order signed by Biden will also call on the relevant federal authorities to beef up fuel consumption and emission regulations, which had been rolled back under Trump, the White House said in a statement.
The actions will “strengthen American leadership in clean cars and trucks by accelerating innovation and manufacturing in the auto sector, bolstering the auto sector domestic supply chain, and growing auto jobs with good pay and benefits”, it added. United Auto Workers (UAW), the country’s largest auto union, has already rallied behind the measures. “The members of the UAW, current and future, are ready to build these electric cars and trucks and the batteries that go in them,” union President Ray Curry said in a statement released through the White House. “Our members are America’s secret weapon in winning this global race.”
Transportation remains the single biggest contributor in the US to climate change, according to officials.
While about 10 percent of European car sales are of electric vehicles, they account for less than 2 percent of car sales in the US, according to the International Energy Agency in 2020 Vehicles in the US spewed 824 million tonnes of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in 2019, about 14 percent of total US emissions, according to the country’s Environmental Protection Agency.
In its announcement on Wednesday, the Biden administration did not immediately unveil its new emissions regulations, but said it would build on a pre-existing agreement between the state of California and five automakers – Ford, Honda, Volkswagen Group, BMW, and Volvo, reached after a state law setting strict car pollution rules was blocked by the Trump administration.
The current US emissions regulations, set by the Trump administration in March 2020, require manufacturers to improve by 1.5 percent the energy efficiency of their vehicles between 2021 and 2026. That is far below the target set by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, of a 5-percent energy efficiency increase during that period.
Biden, Obama’s vice president who took office as president in January, had separately pledged during a global climate summit in April to cut US fossil fuel emissions up to 52 percent in less than 10 years, in the most ambitious climate effort ever taken by a US administration.