May 3, 2013 at 1:05 PM ET
General Motors is the first major U.S. automaker to sign a “Climate Declaration,” asserting that responding to climate change is good business.
“We want to be a change agent in the auto industry,” said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs. “As our world faces issues like congestion and climate change, we are at the forefront in transforming the way we move, from building more efficient vehicles to partnering with car-sharing start-up Relay Rides.”
The declaration, part of a campaign by sustainable business advocacy group Ceres, a long-time critic of GM, asks policymakers to promote clean energy, boost efficiency and limit emissions.
In March, GM CEO Dan Akerson called on President Barack Obama to appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission to develop a 30-year policy framework for energy security.
Gallup and Yale University polls indicate that most Americans believe that corporations should address climate change.
GM has clearly responded by sinking a sizable fortune into vehicle electrification as part of so-far unsuccessful bids to take the environmental crown from Toyota, which has been praised by environmentalists for its commitment to hybrids.
In signing the declaration, GM joins Volkswagen in its promotion of “green.” Volkswagen has unveiled an effort to reduce fuel consumption of its new vehicle fleet to a greater extent than intended.
Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the VW management board, also publicized a recent meeting with Greenpeace Chief Executive Brigitte Behrens. The meeting with the environmental group focused on a discussion of the Volkswagen Group’s climate protection efforts. Winterkorn said the company would reach the emission target set by European Union legislation by 2020.
Winterkorn said his company “will do everything in our power” to reach lower carbon emissions but added: “This will only be possible if customers accept our advanced alternative powertrains.”
The Greenpeace-VW summit was preceded by nearly two years of preliminary discussions.
Worldwide, GM is dedicated to energy efficiency and is working toward a goal of reducing energy intensity by 20 percent from its facilities by 2020. GM has 54 facilities that meet the voluntary Energy Star Challenge for Industry, which requires they reduce energy intensity by 10 percent within five years. The GM facilities cut energy intensity by an average of 26 percent within two to three years, saving the company $90 million in energy costs.
GM is the leading automotive user of solar power in the U.S. and has two of the five largest rooftop solar arrays in the world. GM’s goal is to promote the use of 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020.
In addition to building more fuel-efficient vehicles, GM is investing up to $40 million in the Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Initiative, in which Chevy supports community-based carbon-reduction projects throughout the United States with a goal of reducing up to 8 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.
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